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Top 5 Reasons Why Your Website Needs to be Accessible
In today’s digital landscape, where online presence is paramount, ensuring that websites are accessible to everyone is no longer a luxury but a necessity. The concept of digital equality revolves around the idea that all individuals, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, should have equal access to information and services on the Internet. Creating an accessible website is vital to achieving digital equality.
Web accessibility refers to designing and developing websites in a way that allows people with disabilities to perceive, navigate, and interact with them effectively. Disabilities can encompass various forms, including visual impairments, hearing impairments, motor disabilities, and cognitive disabilities. They can be temporary (like a broken arm) or long-term (like sight loss). By incorporating accessibility features into a website’s design, content, and functionality, we can provide a more inclusive online experience. If you’re looking for more resources about designing accessible websites, check out the book A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences.
Importance of an Accessible Website
1. Empowering People with Disabilities
An accessible website serves as a gateway to empowerment for individuals with disabilities. It allows them to access information, engage in online activities, and connect with others on an equal footing. According to the CDC 1 in 4 Americans have some sort of disability. By removing barriers and providing alternative ways to interact with web content, we empower these individuals to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.
2. Legal and Ethical Obligations
Many countries have legislation that mandates web accessibility for both public and private sector websites. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination. Non-compliance with accessibility practices can lead to legal consequences and tarnish a company’s reputation. In 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reaffirmed and clarified its 2018 ruling that websites are places of public accommodation and are subject to the ADA’s requirements of general non-discrimination and effective communication, but as of a 2020 WebAim study, it was still found that 98% of websites were not fully accessible. Beyond legal obligations, it is crucial to recognize the ethical responsibility of ensuring that people with disabilities are not excluded from the digital sphere, especially now with people living the majority of their lives online.
3. Expanding Audience Reach
Creating an accessible website expands your potential audience reach. With approximately 25% of the population having a disability, you tap into a significant demographic that often faces exclusion from the online space. Moreover, accessible design principles benefit not only those with disabilities but also older adults, individuals with temporary impairments, and users with low-bandwidth connections. A website that is accessible to all can lead to increased traffic, improved engagement, and a broader customer base.
4. Accessibility for Some is Accessibility for All
By making your website accessible to people with disabilities, you are making your website accessible to all. Everyone uses accessibility features every day without even realizing they’re accessibility features. Reading captions while watching videos is helpful when you’re in noisy locations, can’t have the volume up on your phone, or don’t want others hearing what you’re watching. As you get older, being able to change the text size on your device is nice so that you don’t have to keep switching to reading glasses. Having your voicemails auto-transcribed so that you can read them instead of listening to them is a quick way to see what a call was about. Text-to-speech and dark mode are other accessibility features that are now engrained as givens. By prioritizing accessibility, you create a better user experience for all visitors, regardless of their abilities.
5. SEO Benefits
Accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) are interconnected. Search engines strive to provide the best possible user experience, and accessibility plays a vital role in achieving that goal. Many accessibility practices align with SEO best practices, such as providing clear and descriptive headings, using a proper heading structure, having alternative text for images, and creating clear navigation. By optimizing for accessibility, you improve your website’s visibility and ranking in search engine results pages, ultimately driving more organic traffic to your site.
An accessible website is not only a legal and ethical obligation but also a gateway to achieving digital equality. By embracing web accessibility principles, we can empower individuals with disabilities, expand our audience reach, enhance usability for all users, and boost SEO. The key to digital equality lies in recognizing the importance of an accessible website and taking proactive steps to ensure inclusivity online. Together, we can create an internet where everyone has equal access to information, opportunities, and experiences.
You can make your website accessible by building accessibility into your website. As an additional enhancement, you can also add accessWidget from AccessiBe, an AI-powered solution that helps you become ADA-compliant within 48 hours and maintains digital accessibility long-term. Watch this 3-minute demo and this video of a person who is blind using accessWidget. Add the AccessiBe accessWidget to your website on your own or get help to make your website accessible from 2 Dogs and a Laptop.