The web is an important resource for all of us in many aspects of life. We rely on it to work together with colleagues, to stay in touch with family and friends and it’s where we get the majority of our information these days. Everybody wants to be able to access the internet. Most companies use their websites and apps to communicate with their customers and potential customers. But do you know that for about 20% to 30% of the population accessing the web or an app can be a problem due to special needs, disability or just because of growing older? What happens if a user is not able to access digital content in the “traditional” way? What kind of challenges and limitations would you experience without access to the web and your digital community due to an accident or an illness, even if it’s just for a while?
Quite a number of websites and mobile apps are not accessible for persons with temporary or permanent special needs or disabilities. For example, blind and many visual impaired people can’t perceive your website or mobile app content in the colours, format, size and layout you intended. If important information is shown as an image without appropriate alternative text, those people are unable to use your website successfully. Colorblindness can be impacted by low contrast design choices. Many vision and mobile impaired users navigate using the keyboard or an alternative input device such as a braille display, a switch or touch screen rather than a mouse. Some people use screen readers to convert textual into audio information. For example, the screen reader uses the underlying code to list important parts of the website including page headings, links and forms. If these are not coded correctly, the screen reader will not be able to read them. People with cognitive problems are relatively week in text comprehension. Complex layouts can make it difficult for them to understand and interact with a website or mobile app. Content which is easy to understand and websites/apps which are easy to navigate are also beneficial for people who are just learning the language you use on your website, or for people with low technical affinity. By the way: search engines are deaf and blind and won’t be able to perceive content that isn’t coded semantically correct which will result in low rankings in search results.
Risk Management & Law
Some organizations may even face significant risks in terms of legal fees, negative brand impact, and lost revenue if accessibility is not implemented within their sites or applications. For example, since December 2015 airlines with landing rights in the USA have to provide accessible central online processes such as booking and reservation systems. In Switzerland, websites of the public sector need to be accessible since 2004 – but only a fraction really is, as there is no official supervisory authority yet. It’s only a matter of time for this to change though as Switzerland in 2014 ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and has to take appropriate measures to ensure it.
How to serve everyone better
eAccessibility is about designing, developing and editing websites and apps correctly so all users can have equal access to information and functionality. According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) the Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, physical or mental ability. This flexibility also benefits people without any special needs or impairments in certain situations, such as people using a slow internet connections, legacy hardware, using an app in bright sunlight or people with changing abilities. Age directly correlates with disability and as people get older this population is steadily growing.
Investing in eAccessibility innovation is not only morally and ethically appropriate, but it’s the smart thing to do for the future. eAccessibility makes searching and browsing of web content more efficient and it helps you to promote your business and widen your customer base. It is a win-win solution.
10 Tips to make your website and apps more accessible:
- Take accessibility into account from early on in a project
- Use sufficient colour contrasts
- Offer alternatives for graphical information
- Make sure your website can be controlled by keyboard
- Use tables and lists correctly
- Structure your content in a logical way, e.g. using headings
- Structure forms correctly
- Use standard HTML elements wherever possible
- Make PDFs accessible (or avoid them).
You can find a detailed checklist here.
Let’s get started – carve your path and help pave the way toward eAccessibility! We are working to set up a Tribe soon, stay tuned and become part of it.
Together with my colleagues and partner organizations I engage with individuals, organizations, companies and government to discuss eAccessibility. We do spread the knowledge and know how about eAccessibility by providing advice, training, tools and skills to realize digital accessible products and services. We want to build and contribute to an eAccessibility community and act as bridge by ...
Sylvia Winkelmann-Ackermann, eAccessibility