You cannot afford to ignore accessibility
The fundamental purpose of the world wide web is to provide all users with access to a powerful global information system that is easy to use. If this is the case, why are there so many people who are unable to easily use the web to its fullest capacity?
According to Statistics Canada, one in five Canadians, or 6.2 million Canadians aged fifteen and older have at least one disability that limits them in their daily activities including their use of the web.
Web accessibility affects things like SEO and user experience. By nature, accessible websites are easier for all users to navigate, regardless of their abilities. Users are able to have a more robust experience by being able to quickly and effectively access the information or content that they are looking for.
Is your business able to find value in creating a plan for web accessibility?
Untapped multi-billion dollar web accessibility market
By building a website for your business or organization that is not completely accessible to at least 6.2 million Canadians, you are losing out on valuable business that represents a purchasing power of approximately $55 billion annually.
In many organizations increasing revenue and improving customer engagement takes precedence, however, web accessibility can no longer be ignored or relegated to the lower portion of your priority list.
Consider the sheer size of the Canadian population that live with at least one disability limiting them in their daily life, and factor in the projected growth of that figure; which is estimated to be 40 percent of Ontario’s consumers will have a limiting diability by 2035, the numbers are staggering. Inclusivity and accessibility is not only a smart business decision, it is the right decision.
The case can be easily made that accessibility, specifically web accessibility should be a top priority for decision-makers as this population has the ability to increase revenue for your business, and improve customer engagement.
A commitment to accessibility provides your business with the opportunity to enhance its brand by making its services more usable and readily accessible to people with varying abilities and disabilities.
Building a case for accessibility within your organization
Some may argue that implementing an accessible web design does not have a substantial return on investment. However, that is not at all the case.
Organizations that are committed to web accessibility have great success and stand head and shoulders above the crowd, proving themselves as progressive leaders of innovation and position their company as one that cares about people.
Inclusive businesses can extend their market reach and positively engage with all customers and prospects, regardless of their physical, mental or other abilities.
By not conforming to accessibility guidelines, your organization will not be able to compete with others that are actively implementing diverse strategies.
Studies show 71% of customers with disabilities will leave a website if it is too difficult for them to navigate and the majority of these consumers are willing to pay more money for the same product from an organization that offers them a pleasing and easily accessible web experience.
Making your site accessible offers an opportunity to increase customer loyalty and become an industry leader for inclusivity. An accessible website shows visitors that you care about providing users with an accessible digital experience that caters to their individual needs.
An accessible website is beneficial to everyone, not just people with disabilities. There are situations where individuals don’t necessarily identify as a person with a disability, such as those with age-related limitations to vision or hearing, yet would definitely benefit from accessibility features such as colour contrast, closed captioning, screen readers and zoom magnification.
Between alienating customers and advocacy groups, having an inaccessible website can weaken your brand reputation significantly, as well as your search engine optimization.
Innovation and accessible design
Web accessibility ensures all web content is accessible and that people of all abilities and disabilities are able to perceive, navigate, and understand this content while being free of any barriers.
People with visual and hearing impairments, motor skill and physical disabilities, photosensitivity, and cognitive disabilities often need assistive technologies to browse the internet and we are responsible for ensuring that the website of our business or organization can accommodate everyone.
Businesses are not accommodating individuals with disabilities by providing alternatives, they are instead building barriers by not providing accessible experiences for customers who rely on assistive technology like screen readers, voice detection software, zoom magnification, switch controls and other assistive devices.
There is a myriad of benefits to optimizing accessibility on your website. When you create a universal design, to include accessibility, you are improving your website’s framework, resulting in accessibility being built into all components of your site.
This framework takes into account the preferences and needs of users of all abilities. So why spend more time and money creating bandage solutions for certain barriers, when you can invest in a digital project that has innovation and inclusion built into its foundation.
Leading the charge and setting new brand standards for accessibility is always important from a reputation perspective, but there's so much more to it than that. As it turns out, designing for accessibility can lead to unexpected innovations.
Voice-to-text and dictation
Voice-to-text software was originally intended to help blind users write messages without the use of a keyboard. Today, dictation software is commonly used as a general productivity tool. When users are driving and their eyes are occupied on the road, they can still send and receive messages from others using dictation software.
Even more commonly, the technology has been used extensively for voice search applications, such as Google Home and Amazon's Alexa.
Predictive text and keyboard shortcuts
While more efficient and time-saving for everyone (especially compared to multi-tap character selection on mobile phones), predictive text and keyboard shortcuts were originally intended to assist those with arthritis or tremors, as well as those with learning disabilities.
While captions were originally designed for those who are hearing impaired, they've received far more widespread use in recent years. Autoplay of videos is very common on the web nowadays, but as everyone is extremely aware, they have a tendency to autoplay at the absolute worst times.
This creates a poor user experience. This has been mitigated by companies like Facebook defaulting to captions on videos in their feeds. This mainstream adoption has also led to a general improvement in captioning technology.
Internal benefits of accessibility
There are legal and regulatory consequences of not complying with existing standards. These are arguments we hear frequently regarding compliance, but what are the internal benefits of going beyond compliance?
Universal design makes accessibility foolproof and protects the integrity of your site when you have multiple employees making changes to your site content.
Rather than creating alternatives to enhance your site’s accessibility, and constantly working at maintaining accessibility standards, do it right and invest in a web accessible framework; allow your team to focus on your site’s content and overall business goals while catering to all of the needs and abilities of your clients and prospects.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
With the January 2021 deadline to comply with the WCAG 2.0 Level AA of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) having passed, it is prudent to begin to consider what actions you need to take to ensure your organization complies with the new regulations.
AODA website guidelines have been in effect since the beginning of January 2012 and since January 1, 2021, all public websites and web content must meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
These new regulations apply to private and non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees, including organizations in the public sector. Sites that are compliant with WCAG 2.0 guidelines will become accessible by providing users with text alternatives for non-text content, formats that include large print, high contrast visuals and braille to eliminate visual barriers.
Accessibility is not going away
The web accessibility movement is not temporary and web design and development processes will continue to improve and adapt.
Designing and developing a site with accessibility “best practices in mind, including features like adding alt text to all images and media, colour contrast and making the website keyboard-friendly. In addition to those features, it’s imperative to ensure all content, including dynamic content, is easily accessible to users.
A good place to begin the process of becoming compliant is to assess the current state of the website, including all existing pages and documents. Evaluate current methods of posting content, and determine which accessibility practices you are already engaging in.
Determine areas in need of enhancement and work towards discontinuing practices that detract from your site’s accessibility. Update practices, procedures and organizational policies, to redefine your organization’s standards. Create a plan to ensure that best practices are followed for all ongoing and upcoming digital projects.
Accessibility should be a priority throughout the entire design and development process. Attention to minor details and continuous testing will help offer a website that is usable to all.
Create and implement an accessibility roadmap, including a budget and provide employee training and workshops.