By now, you’ve likely heard the term “accessibility” in regard to your website. But what exactly does accessibility in web design mean? How do you make your website accessible? Why should you make your website accessible?
Today more than ever, the internet is a critical resource and tool in our society. It’s difficult to imagine a business or organization that doesn’t, in some way, rely on the internet.
And at its heart, the Web is designed to work for all people. Yet without attentive design, websites can become challenging for those with disabilities or impairments to use effectively.
The importance of accessibility
Simply put, making your website accessible means that it’s usable for people with disabilities. Creating an accessible website is important for three big reasons:
- You risk getting sued if your website does not meet ADA compliance standards
- It makes the most business sense
- Ethically, it’s the right thing to do
Many clients first hear about accessibility through horror stories on the news about companies being sued for websites that don’t meet ADA compliance. And this is a possibility companies now risk if their websites don’t meet compliance standards.
When your website is usable to the maximum amount of people—including those with impairments and disabilities—it also makes business sense. It means that users are able to navigate, learn, interact, and take action with your content, regardless of ability. So someone with a visual impairment can still shop your e-commerce site. Someone with an auditory impairment can still engage with your weekly podcast by reading the transcript.
Yet beyond legality and business practice, designing websites to meet accessibility standards is simply the right thing to do.
According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some kind of visual impairment. That’s a staggering statistic. Accessibility focuses on usability for all people, including (but not limited to):
- Those with auditory disabilities
- Those with cognitive or neurological disabilities
- Those with physical disabilities
Thinking beyond disability
Accessibility standards benefit those without disabilities as well. As W3’s introduction to accessibility helpfully describes, accessibility also benefits those:
- Using devices with small screens, like smart watches or mobile devices
- Older users with changing physical abilities
- Temporarily disabled from injury
- Dealing with contextual limitations, such as bright sunlight
Testing your website for accessibility
“How do I know if my website is accessible?” We receive this question often. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to find out if your website meets accessibility standards. Here are a few ways you can check if your website is accessible:
- Simulate usability for visually impaired users by enabling VoiceOver (iPhone) or TalkBack (Android) in your phone settings. Ask yourself: “Is my website still easy to navigate and find information with using these settings?”
- Download and use an accessibility simulator/ compliance checker like WAVE
- Hire a professional agency to audit your website for you. (Pssst, we do this.)
Though the topic of accessibility can feel scary, in actuality it doesn’t have to be! Yes, it’s definitely easier to design your website to meet accessibility standards from the very beginning. Yet even for newer and middle-of-life websites, a few simple changes can often go a long way in meeting accessibility standards.
Are you interested to know if your website accessible and ADA compliant? We’d love to answer your questions and even provide a free accessibility audit of your website!