An often overlooked aspect of a business’s website that may be clouding your visibility with a portion of the population is the web site’s accessibility features. Developing an accessible website experience that can be enjoyed by all visitors regardless of their limitations is crucial in positioning your business as a welcoming organization to individuals of all backgrounds and abilities and can be vital to increasing your website’s overall visibility and performance across search engines.
What is Web Accessibility?
The different people that may come across your site on a daily basis comprises individuals with a wide range of life experiences, preferences, abilities, and at times limitations. Web accessibility is based on the notion that not all who come across a website such as yours will navigate and access the information within the site in the same manner. While vision impairment is often the most common limitation that business owners think of when thinking of accessibility obstacles or limitations, there are several other disabilities and considerations to make when addressing the varying needs of web users and creating an inclusive website that can meet those needs.
Defining Disability for a More Accessible Web Experience
In order to develop a website that meets the needs of your visitors that have some form of a disability requires you to gain an overall understanding of the various disabilities and circumstances that your website’s end users may be experiencing. Understanding different disabilities will allow you to increase the accessibility of your website in turn, allowing for more users to experience it fully and expand your viewership and engagement.
Limitations or Disabilities that can limit a user’s experience on a website include:
- Vision impairment
- Hearing impairment
- Cognitive or Neurological impairment
- Physical impairment and/or difficulties with motor skills
Web Accessibility Standards
According to the Department of Justice, the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to websites. This means that website must be accessible to people with disabilities, and any sites that are overly cumbersome or inaccessible to individuals with disabilities could be considered discrimination in violation of the ADA.
The gold standard for web accessibility often cited and referred by courts and lawmakers across the U.S. are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines created by the Web Accessibility Initiative in its efforts to make the web an inclusive space for all regardless of disability. The guidelines are thorough and provide information on how to develop an accessible website in all aspects including content, tools, usage, and navigability.
Why is Web Accessibility Important?
It is no secret that the internet has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives as a society. From access to healthcare and government services to the ability to effectively manage our households, services, education, shopping, and entertainment; the internet has become a necessity to access and take advantage of these resources.
For individuals with a disability oftentimes the web provides the easiest and most accessible platform for them to complete tasks independently and maintain connected in ways they otherwise could not. As a business, it is in your best interest to ensure that your website follows the accessibility standards to provide a positive experience for all users on your site.
There are several benefits and advantages for businesses to optimize their website to meet or even exceed web accessibility standards:
- Your business may hold a competitive edge for individuals with disabilities when your website provides an accessible and user-friendly web experience for all. It is estimated that a mere 1 percent of the web meets accessibility standards. By maintaining an accessible website you are attracting a significant portion of the population that is often forgotten or excluded. This can create customer loyalty and valuable referrals leading to more business.
- With an accessible website, you also reduce your business’ risk of becoming entangled in discrimination lawsuits or negative press. Some big corporations have faced lawsuits and negative publicity for their restrictive and unfriendly websites for individuals with disabilities.
- Highlight your brand’s inclusivity and accessibility in marketing efforts focusing not only on your business philosophy but also on your practices and available resources such as your accessible website.
How to Make Your Website Accessible
Reviewing your website for accessibility and making changes to meet these distinctive needs requires a thorough and detail-oriented process. Teaming up with a knowledgeable and experienced web developer can help ensure these best practices are met when creating an accessible website for your business.
Some common examples of areas that you can enhance and adapt to those with disabilities in their web browsing experience include:
- Page Titles – unique titles that describe the content of the page and are differentiated from other pages are best
- Text alternatives for images – optimizing descriptions of imagery to assist with a user’s experience and understanding of the content within a site as well as navigation
- Headings – the use of proper headings and structure to allow for ease of browsing and navigation
- Enhancement of Videos – including subtitles and closed captioning
- Adaptation to Text Size Changes – ensure that your content is still accessible when users enlarge or zoom in on text
Tools for Testing Web Accessibility
If you are wondering how accessible your current website is there are several tools you can use to test your site and check for issues that should be addressed.
Free Web Accessibility Testing Tools & Checklists you can use include:
WAVE – Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
AATT – Automated Account Accessibility Testing Tool
Accessibility Checklist by Elsevier
If your website accessibility scans identify accessibility concerns or issues or if you are having trouble understanding your results or how to properly conduct these scans contact our team at Phi Web Studio for guidance and assistance in evaluating your business’ site for its website accessibility and to help you create an inclusive and easy to use, professional website for your customers of all abilities.