In short, the answer is YES…
Websites have become integral to our daily lives. People rely heavily on the internet for vital information and well-rounded experiences at work, education, entertainment, and shopping. However, not everyone has the same experience accessing websites. Some people–especially those with physical, auditory, cognitive, or visual disabilities–face challenges accessing websites. That’s where website accessibility comes in. In this article, we will explore the importance of website accessibility for all users. We will discuss the issues associated with accessibility overlays, remediation, and building an accessible website.
Understanding Website Accessibility
Website accessibility refers to making online content accessible to people with disabilities so that everyone can access the website and its information effectively. As per the World Health Organization, there are over 1 billion disabled people in the world. Out of them, over 2.2 times are visually impaired. Website accessibility is, therefore, essential to ensure that people with disabilities can access websites without being hindered in any way.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of guidelines that outline best practices for making web content more accessible for everyone. These guidelines are grouped into three conformance levels: A, AA, and AAA. While level A compliance is the minimum requirement, complying with the AA level guidelines makes websites accessible to a range of individuals with disabilities. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure full compliance with these inclusive guidelines.
Why Accessibility is Important?
Accessibility is imperative because it makes it possible for everyone, regardless of their abilities, to access information and communicate with others online. Without accessibility, people with disabilities may face multiple barriers that prevent them from interacting with websites and using the Internet. The lack of accessibility may lead to social isolation and exclusion, preventing people from work and educational opportunities.
Moreover, accessibility is a human right, recognized by the United Nations. It is a fundamental principle of equal opportunities and non-discrimination. Therefore, ensuring website accessibility is not just a legal obligation for businesses but also a moral responsibility.
Issues Associated with Accessibility Overlays
For instance, one of the biggest issues with accessibility overlays is that they can be ineffective in their role. Many overlays focus on specific issues related to website accessibility. This approach leaves other accessibility issues unattended, ultimately failing to ensure full accessibility and inclusiveness for all users.
Additionally, overlays can have compatibility issues with assistive technology tools, including screen readers, speech recognition software, and braille displays. This hinders accessibility for those relying on these technologies.
Another issue with accessibility overlays is legal liabilities. Although these overlays can seem to improve website accessibility, they do not conform to WCAG guidelines, making them non-compliant. Non-compliance with established guidelines leaves businesses and website owners vulnerable to legal action and potential lawsuits.
Remediation of Existing Websites
Remediating an existing website to improve its accessibility can be both expensive and inefficient in the long run. This is mostly true for websites that were not designed with accessibility in mind. Remediation involves fixing a website’s code and content to conform to WCAG guidelines. However, this process is often time-consuming and requires extensive rework.
Moreover, remediation may disrupt website users. During remediation, the website may be temporarily unavailable or have reduced functionality. This may lead to frustration for its users and ultimately a decrease in website traffic.
Building an Accessible Website
Designing and building an accessible website from scratch can be an economical and efficient solution to ensuring website accessibility. By incorporating ADA compliance principles into website design, businesses can create a more inclusive website that reaches more audiences.
Accessible website design involves proper heading structures, descriptive alternative text for images, and adequate color contrast ratios. Additionally, developers should use HTML markup that supports assistive technologies such as screen readers and keyboard navigation.
Using accessible design principles for websites not only improves website accessibility but also improves website performance in search engines. Search engines generally prioritize websites that apply WCAG guidelines, meaning that building an accessible website boosts website visibility.
Factors to Consider in Building an Accessible Website
Ensuring that your website is accessible to everyone is crucial to building a more inclusive online community. Below are some factors to consider when building an accessible website:
Navigation is essential for an accessible website. The website’s navigation must be intuitive and remain consistent throughout the site.
Headings organize content and are an essential guide for screen readers and other assistive technologies. Proper headings on a website ensure that website users get correct and relevant information.
Images and Graphics
Images and graphics enrich and improve website visual aesthetics. However, it’s essential to include detailed and descriptive alternative text (ALT text) for these images. Alt text ensures that users with visual impairments can understand the images and website content effectively.
Using adequate color contrast is crucial to making content and information easily visible and readable on a website. Proper color contrast ratios make texts and website elements more accessible for individuals with color blindness and other visual impairments.
That was the long answer. But as mentioned earlier, YES you should have an accessible website that represents your brand/business.
Website accessibility is crucial for ensuring that individuals with disabilities can access and use websites independently and effectively. While accessibility overlays may appear to offer an easy solution, they can often create more significant issues. Remediation of existing websites can be costly and inefficient in the long run. Building an accessible website from the ground up can be an economical solution that avoids additional costs and ensures website accessibility for all users.
Moreover, accessible websites offer multiple benefits, including improved user experience, better search engine optimization, and increased brand reputation. By incorporating accessibility into website design principles, businesses can create a more inclusive and diverse online presence. This not only benefits people with disabilities but everyone who uses the Internet. Therefore, an accessible website should be a top priority for any brand/business looking to create an effective online presence.