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The Importance of Accessibility in Website Design

According to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) 2021 world report on disabilities, there are over 1 billion people (15% of the world’s population) that have some form of disability. 

One of the reasons why major global companies such as Google and Amazon are continually looking at improving their accessibility, to ensure that the biggest barriers are removed or minimized as much as possible. As even a fraction of a tiny margin can make all the difference and give an edge in today's highly competitive online market.

In the UK alone, the amount lost due to inaccessible websites was estimated to be around £12 billion in 2020. This highlights the urgency and importance to which all businesses should be viewing their website with the of aim to adding or enhancing their existing website accessibility features.

To fully understand how to design a website for accessibility, we need to first understand the type of users and how they will operate and interact with our website. 

Here’s a list of some of the range of disabilities that people visiting your website may have;

  • Visual - Visual disabilities include blindness, low vision and colour blindness.
  • Hearing loss - Hearing impairments and deafness.
  • Neurological - Conditions and disorders involving the central and peripheral nervous systems such as epilepsy. Alzheimer disease, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
  • Cognitive - Cognitive disabilities include attention, learning disabilities and logic.
  • Motor - Motor disabilities include limited fine motor control, muscle slowness, difficulty, or inability to use hands.

It might be overwhelming and daunting to understand each complex users’ requirements but having an accessible website can have a positive impact on your search engine results, reduced maintenance costs, increase your audience range, and improve the user experience for all users that visit your website. In other words, it’s a win-win.

How is your website’s accessibility scored?

Website accessibility is ranked against WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), with the success criteria currently consisting of requirements from versions WCAG 2.0 (published 2008 / ISO standard 2012) and WCAG 2.1 (published in 2018).

WCAG was developed by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard, there are three different levels of accessibility;

Level A - Low impact on the design or function. Failure to conform to this level will result in a completely inaccessible website.

Level AA - Level AA includes all Level A and AA requirements. Many organisations strive to meet Level AA. Moderate impact on design or function.

Level AAA - Level AAA includes all Level A, AA, and AAA requirements. Fairly constrictive of web design or function. It is the highest level for accessibility under WCAG and it is more difficult to achieve by most websites. Achieving this level is desirable but not of the utmost necessity.

Type of tools used to assist users when browsing websites

Screen readers are one example of the type of tools some users with disabilities would utilize when browsing websites. Screen readers convert digital information into synthesized speech. They empower users to hear content and navigate the keyboard. Screen readers are most suited for blind readers or those who have low vision to use information technology with the same independence and privacy as anyone else.

It’s always important that your web page highlights what language the content is currently in, as the screen reader needs to know which language it should speak. For example, the page you are currently reading this article on uses <html lang=”en”> with “en” being the code for English.

Top downloadable screen readers;

Can we not just simply download a plugin and install it straight away onto our CMS?

Don’t we all wish we could find and add that one magic bullet that would solve all our worries? Unfortunately, there are some plugins that exist on the market today that claim to be able to fix all your worries when it comes to website accessibility. Those should be avoided, as in reality no plugins or even CMS platforms are perfectly accessible out of the box.

They alone would not be able to fix accessibility issues in the way a comprehensive UX design and customer feedback led exercise would. You need to understand your users and have that empathy - as the more you understand and implement those insights, the better and more user friendly your website will become.

How can we find out whether our website is accessible?

We are currently offering to carry out a completely FREE comprehensive Accessibility audit on your online resources to determine if your website meets all current accessibility guidelines. This will include the production of a detailed summary report of the results and our recommendations where applicable.

Alternatively, check out our article on ‘Billions lost every year due to website accessibility failings’.

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