An estimated 15% of the world’s population are living with some form of disability and for many it means they are unable to use websites built without accessibility features. As the general population ages this figure is expected to grow. The accessibility of your website refers to its degree of usability for people with a disability.
Who may experience issues when accessing a website?
People who may struggle include but are not limited to:
- Visually impaired people who use screen readers
- Hearing impaired people who use browsers with no sound
- Colour-blind people
- Physically impaired people
- People with age related impairments
The case for making my new website accessible?
As a business you may be thinking, why should we go to all the compliance effort of making our website more accessible? Below we have outlined just a few important reasons for consideration.
Potential legal issues
In Australia all Commonwealth, State and Territory Government websites were required to conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA by 31 December 2014. Access to information and communication technologies including the web are recognised as a basic human right by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Countries around the world including the UK have started to pass laws requiring fair access for the blind and disabled to the internet and it is entirely plausible that Australia could introduce similar legal requirements in the not-so-distant future. If you are planning on building a new website it is worth considering as it is more cost-effective to build accessibility websites from the start - rather than upgrading later.
Increase your potential audience
Although there is a community perception that blind and disabled people don’t use the internet, this is far from true. To the contrary, people with disabilities are big users of the internet, especially on accessible e-commerce sites which allow them to shop easily from the comfort of their own home. An accessible website offers you an opportunity for building a loyal customer base.
Improve your SEO
Many features of accessible websites can have a positive impact on your SEO efforts. Some common feature elements including:
- Unique page titles that contain keywords
- Unique headlines (H1, H2 etc)
- Alt text for images and multimedia
- Properly labelled links
- Intuitive navigation
By following best practice for accessibility you can indirectly boost your search engine rankings as search engine algorithms also consider and preference these elements.
Increase your profits
Several studies have shown that making your website accessible correlates to a company’s bottom line.
A 2009 example is Mitsukoshi - Japan’s oldest and one of its most prestigious retail stores. The company recognised that given Japan’s aging population, there was value to be gained from implementing a new website that focused on meeting the accessibility requirements of their older and visually impaired customers.
The new website allowed users to change font sizes and background colours to suit their personal needs and preferences or have the text read to them by a voice synthesizer. These changes helped Mitsukoshi to reach the project goals of capitalising on the gift-giving seasons and doubling their internet sales of the previous year.
What can I do to make my website accessible?
There are a number of things that you can implement on your website to improve its accessibility, without the need for building a new site. Many of these also contribute to improving your SEO efforts which benefits you as well as your users.
- Use relative font sizes to allow your user to make the text larger or smaller as required.
- Use highly contrasting colours for your text and background.
- Provide useful alt text for images and other informative graphics.
- Provide transcripts for video and audio.
- Structure your headings correctly.
- In a form, indicate a required field with the phrase “required” or similar, rather than just making it bold or a different colour.
- The commonly seen “click here” or “read more” links are not helpful for people using assistive technologies like screen readers as all they hear is “click here” and will have no idea which way to go to find the explanation. Instead links should be self-explanatory like “to download the latest catalogue, click here”.
As a pre-qualified approved ICT service provider for Government in SA, VIC & NSW, The Digital Embassy has extensive experience in building and maintaining websites to meet accessibility standards, and can offer valuable guidance and services to clients in this area.
About The Digital Embassy
The Digital Embassy™ is an Australian Certified Digital Agency leading clients through the digital experience. Our core competencies lie in Digital Strategy, Responsive Website Design, Mobile App Development, Content Marketing and Production, Inbound Digital Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), AdWords campaigns, Web Hosting, Education and Training.
These attributes allow us to educate our clients on industry best practice and develop highly engaging digital assets and lead generation channels that deliver a measurable Return on Investment (ROI).
The Digital Embassy™ is a Microsoft and Google Certified Partner, and a pre-qualified ICT service provider for Government in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.