Web Accessibility And Compliance: Why Is It Important

The internet is universal—it belongs to everyone. Unfortunately, even with its prevalence, not everyone enjoys equivalent access. In fact, according to a report, over 95% of the top one million websites have accessibility problems on their homepages. It makes web accessibility an issue in today’s digital world.

In this article, we’ll look at web accessibility and compliance and why you should take it more seriously. 

What Is Web Accessibility And Compliance?

Web accessibility refers to the design practice of making your website and its content usable and accessible for all people, regardless of their language, device, location, and most importantly, their physical or cognitive abilities. When a website is properly designed for inclusivity and accessibility, it ensures that there are no barriers preventing access to, or interaction with, websites and their content on the internet for all kinds of users.

It can be tough to know the types of barriers on your website. Fortunately, guidelines and standards are available to help ensure that your website is usable and accessible.

A Closer Look At Accessibility Compliance Guidelines

Generally, the consensus standard for website accessibility is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). It is a part of a series of guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). WAI is managed and run by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international standards organization for the Internet. 

The WCAG, including its most recent guideline revision, WCAG 2.1, published in June 2018, was developed with many stakeholders from different industries, including accessibility research organizations, government agencies, disability organizations, and more. 

These guidelines are based on the four accessibility principles:

1. Perceivable

Web content and information should be presented in a way that’s detectable by anyone. In general, most web users’ perceivability is based on visual cues. For those with vision problems, sound and touch elements should be included in your web design. 

2. Operable

This principle refers to the ability of a user to interact with your website’s navigation and page components. An operable website means that all visitors should be able to use every part of your website and be straightforward. It should also have operation features such as voice control to help disabled users. 

3. Understandable

Your website and its content should be straightforward to understand. It means that users should have no trouble comprehending the meaning and purpose of the information in your content.

4. Robust

A robust website means that it should be able to function reliably even when using a wide variety of technologies and assistive devices such as screen readers. 

By following WCAG principles, your website and its content can provide a better experience for the billions of people worldwide suffering from some form of disability. 

The Importance Of Web Accessibility

By now, you might be wondering why you need to spend time and effort making your website accessible. Below, we’re sharing some of the most important benefits of designing for web accessibility.

1. It Expands Your Audience Reach

As a business owner, you want your website to reach as many people as possible. And not thinking about web accessibility means you’re not catering to a large population of disabled people.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that there are about one billion differently-abled people worldwide. Thus, it would be unwise to exclude about 15% of the world’s total population by not prioritizing web accessibility. When combined, this market segment has a spending power of up to USD$220 billion.  

To give you more context on what you’ve been missing by not designing for accessibility, one UK survey revealed that over four million disabled people abandoned retail websites due to the barriers they’ve experienced that prevented them from shopping. As a result, retailers lost over GBP£11 billion in 2016. In 2019, that lost business has only grown to over GBP£17 billion.  

Regardless of their disability, people can still access the internet in many ways. Some use a keyboard and mouse, while others navigate with a keyboard alone. People with mobility issues often use head pointers, eye-tracking systems, trackballs, and voice control technology to control their computers and web browsers. Those with vision problems often use assistive technologies such as screen magnifiers or screen readers.  

And if you’re not catering to those special needs, disabled users won’t have a satisfactory experience on your website, which can even prevent them from interacting with your business. Improving your website’s accessibility is good business. It’s not impossible to design a website that’s inclusive and accessible to whoever wants to visit it. Making several common-sense workarounds can go a long way towards getting more exposure for your website.

2. It Boosts Overall Website Usability And User Experience

Designing for an accessible website primarily focused on users with disabilities. You want your disabled users to be able to view, read, and consume your web content in the same way (and just as effectively) as their abled peers. However, it doesn’t mean that the benefits of a positive experience are only limited to your disabled audience–it spills over to your general audience, too.  

In general, the principles of web accessibility are closely connected with web design best practices. When implementing web accessibility strategies, you tend to discover and consequently correct and improve usability issues affecting all of your visitors. 

So, when your website and its contents are easy to perceive, operate, and understand, every user, even those without disabilities, will benefit. To give you a better idea, here are some examples of web accessibility strategies that benefit all users:

  • Color Contrast Ratios

Color contrast refers to the difference in contrast between your website’s backgrounds and foreground elements such as text and images. 

In general, providing the option to customize for an appropriate color contrast ratio helps ensure that text is legible and readable for people with vision difficulties. However, it also helps in reducing eyestrain for all users. 

  • Closed Captioning

Closed captioning simply means providing subtitles on videos and other visual displays. Accurate closed captions often cater to users with hearing disabilities. However, most users also find captions more engaging, and it makes it easier for them to understand information. A study revealed that video ads with subtitles increased the video view time by over 10%.  

  • Clear, Concise Content

Generally, writing clear and straightforward content can accommodate users with learning disabilities. However, writing clear, concise content is also a content writing best practice to engage all users and get your message across more efficiently.  

  • Authentication Process

Providing a user authentication process can help people with memory or mobility issues. That said, all users can also benefit from a more streamlined login process, ultimately improving lead conversions and customer retention.

3. It Is A Legal And Ethical Responsibility

Accessibility is a human right, and the law mandates it. That is why most physical stores and services are legally required to provide accessibility features to accommodate those with disabilities. 

However, as the internet has become increasingly more prevalent in our daily lives, it’s safe to say that accessibility is no longer limited to the physical world. Most countries now have laws and regulations requiring websites to be accessible and inclusive, including the US Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the European Accessibility Act (EAA), and Canada’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It means that if your business has yet to implement web accessibility strategies, you’re putting your business at risk of legal consequences. 

More than 2,200 web accessibility lawsuits were filed in 2018 in the US alone. This number is expected to grow as disabled users demand better inclusivity and accessibility when browsing websites. In addition, several high-profile cases, such as the accessibility lawsuit against Beyonce’s website, have also raised awareness.  

Ultimately, most public and private sector businesses are legally obligated to maintain accessible sites. By doing so, you can reduce your chances of experiencing costly and time-consuming lawsuits and hiring a business lawyer.  

4. It Supports SEO Strategies And Better Maintenance

As mentioned before, an accessible website has improved usability. As a result, it also makes your website look good in the eyes of search engines. It means that your website is likely to be found and rank higher in search results. 

In most cases, the goals of web accessibility and SEO strategies are closely aligned. To make your website more accessible, you must design a cleaner interface and easy navigation systems to help disabled users. However, doing so also helps improve your bounce rate since you make your website look appealing to all users.  

An accessible website also tends to use cleaner code. It means that your website has a faster loading time and fewer errors, which helps improve your search engine positioning. A cleaner and simpler code can also help your web developers in maintaining and developing new features or redesigning projects.

Takeaway

As you can see, taking the initiative to make your website more accessible to all users comes with numerous benefits–from improving your customer base to making your website look good in the eyes of search engines.  

But, most importantly, designing for web accessibility is the right thing to do. So, what are you waiting for? Prioritize web accessibility right now! Follow the standard WCAG framework to create and maintain an accessible website for all!