Web accessibility and why it's important
Making websites accessible is essentially about taking measures to ensure that people with disabilities are able to use them successfully. Often, due to the nature of their disability, and/or the technology it necessitates them to use, people can find using websites very difficult or even impossible. This is particularly disappointing, since, when websites are built in a way that removes these challenges, they offer many people with disabilities the possibility of unprecedented access to information and communication.
Accessibility at the OTHER media
At the OTHER media, we build all website templates for new projects, with reference to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, aiming, where practicable, to achieve Level AA conformance. These guidelines, produced by the Web Accessibility Initiative, are the industry standard for assessing the accessibility of websites and are used by companies and organisations around the world.
Developing accessible templates, however, is only half the story. The content of a website, and the way in which it is written, has a huge impact on its accessibility. As a result, making and maintaining an accessible website is a real team effort between us, the developers, and our clients, the content editors. So, while doing all we can to develop an accessible website, we also aim to ensure that our clients have the knowledge, understanding and support they need to keep it that way.
The numerous benefits of accessible websites
Interestingly, making a website accessible confers a number of significant benefits in addition to the assistance it gives to those with disabilities.
Making your website available to the widest possible audience
People who have disabilities, directly affecting the way in which they can access the Web, make up a significant proportion of a websites' potential audience. It is also worth noting that, with an ageing population, this proportion is likely to keep increasing, as many of these disabilities are more prevalent in old age. Making a website accessible, then, is important for reaching the widest possible audience.
People are accessing websites in an ever increasing number of environments, such as on the train to work, in cafés and bars, outside on the street, and in the comfort of their own living rooms while watching television. They are also using a growing variety of devices, from the more traditional desktops and laptops, to games consoles, mobile phones and ebooks.
Under this variety of circumstances, many of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities will also be experienced by people without disabilities. For example, someone trying to follow links on the small touchscreen of their mobile phone, is presented with many of the same problems faced by people with motor control impairment. Whilst someone trying to use a laptop in a noisy environment, or somewhere where making a noise would disturb others, will experience many of the same problems as people with hearing impairments.
Making a website accessible to disabled users will make sure that everyone can use the website in a myriad of circumstances.
Many of the HTML elements that are important for accessibility, such as page titles, page headings and links are also used by search engines to determine the content of the pages they index. Using them correctly, not only improves accessibility, but can help give prominence to keywords and key phrases. Furthermore, many parts of a web page that can cause problems for people with disabilities, such as images, audio and video are invisible to search engines. Providing alternative text content for such things, makes them available to everyone and also means they can be indexed.
A study by the Disability Rights Commission in 2004 found that web content optimised for accessibility can also be used more effectively and more successfully by people without disabilities.
Meeting legal obligations
Since 1999 there has been a legal duty, first under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and subsequently under the Equality Act, to take steps to make websites accessible.
To discuss your next project, phone our Managing Director, George Crabb on 020 7089 5959 or email firstname.lastname@example.org