For many businesses, website accessibility is an afterthought. After all, it’s not like the average customer will be browsing your site with a screen reader. As of July 2016, over 20% of people in the United States live with some form of disability, making it difficult or impossible to access conventional websites.
It’s time for you to start paying attention to what those people need from your website if you want to survive in this competitive market.
1. Why is Website Accessibility Important?
The World Wide Web was designed to be accessible to all users, including people with disabilities. Unfortunately, most sites are far from accessible because developers don’t fully understand the technology, there are no tools to test accessibility, and many organizations prioritize aesthetics over usability.
As a result, users who rely on assistive technologies have trouble accessing basic content. And for businesses that rely on website accessibility to build trust with customers, promote their brands, or gain an edge over the competition.
2. What are Assistive Technologies?
Assistive technologies, also known as “technologies that enhance computer performance for people who have disabilities” can be used to help users, both individuals and groups of people that access the web. These tools help people with disabilities navigate websites, make sense of content, and interact with web applications.
Some examples of assistive technologies include screen readers, screen magnifiers, alternative keyboards (such as alternative switch interfaces), text-to-speech software (TTS), and refreshable braille devices.
According to AudioEye, screen readers allow blind people to use the web both online and offline. The applications allow users to navigate through web pages, site maps, and other interactive content without keyboard shortcuts or mouse clicks.
3. What Technically Constitutes Website Accessibility?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has established the following baseline guidelines for accessible web design. These guidelines address many categories of disabilities such as, but not limited to: visual, auditory, and cognitive impairments; motor impairments; and learning disabilities. When you design a website with accessibility in mind, you must adhere to these guidelines.
The W3C recommends that websites include text alternatives for non-text assets and provide descriptive tab and keyboard shortcuts where applicable. It’s also imperative that you test your website using screen readers to ensure that users with visual disabilities can access your content.
4. What are WCAG 2.0 Guidelines?
W3C has released the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), which are more comprehensive than previous versions of the guidelines, providing more guidance for developers on how to make websites accessible.
When you design a website using these guidelines, it ensures that your site is accessible to users with a wide variety of impairments, including those who have cognitive disabilities. These guidelines also establish a baseline to which you need to adhere to be considered compliant with WCAG 2.0.
5. How Do You Accessibility Test Your Website?
There are many website accessibility checker available, but the two most important are the WebAIM Text Alternatives Generator (TAC) and the WCAG Compliance Checker Pro. The TAC helps identify text alternatives for all content on your site, while the WCAG Compliance Checker Pro is a plugin for Chrome that puts your site through a series of tests to ensure that it meets WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
6. What Is the Cost of Website Accessibility?
Even though it may seem like a small consideration, making sure your website is fully accessible (i.e., compliant with WCAG 2.0) can make a huge difference in your bottom line by ensuring that users with disabilities can access your content easily and effectively.
There are many accessibility testing tools available, but the two most important are the WebAIM Text Alternatives Generator (TAC) and the WCAG Compliance Checker Pro. The TAC helps identify text alternatives for all content that you have on your site. The WCAG Compliance Checker Pro is a plugin for Chrome that puts your site through a series of tests to ensure that it meets WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
Accessible websites are becoming increasingly necessary. More users with disabilities than ever before, including an ageing population prone to visual impairments. These users are searching for businesses that can easily accommodate their needs—whether it’s your site they’re looking at or that of a competitor. And whether you realize it or not, your website is probably turning away users with disabilities.