Why Web Accessibility?

Illustration showing a person with one arm, a person with an arm injury, and a person holding a baby.
Web accessibility needs can be permanent, temporary, or situational.

Have you ever experienced trying to watch a video in a loud place or somewhere you can’t turn up the sound? Perhaps you were at a restaurant during a business trip or a movie theater during the trailers or lying next to your partner while they were sleeping.

When people think about web accessibility, they probably think about making their website usable for individuals who are blind. But what about people suffering from cataracts short-term or those who visited the eye doctor and had their eyes dilated, or simply misplaced their eyeglasses.

Website accessibility is not just about providing tools and resources for individuals with disabilities. It’s also about creating a website that allows customers to connect with you when and how it is best for them.

We’ll explain various situations where your customers might need video captions or screen readers that you might never have considered.

Types of Customer Accessibility Needs

Your customers’ needs for alternate methods for exploring website content could be:

· Permanent
· Temporary
· Situational

Illustration showing how disabilities can be permanent, temporary, or situational.
Illustration showing how disabilities can be permanent, temporary, or situational.

A permanent accessibility need is what you would expect. It’s an individual with a disability who needs added resources to surf the web. An example of this would be someone who is deaf.

Temporary accessibility needs include moments where your customer might have an ongoing ailment, but one that won’t last long-term. An example of this would be someone who is suffering from an ear infection that impedes their ability to hear clearly.

Finally, there are situational customer accessibility needs. These can take place due to a person’s environment. For example, consider the noise levels for a bartender on a break trying to watch an instructional video. Captions can make all the difference in this situation.

Creating a Great User Experience

For some website users, accessibility tools are simply a preference. They’d rather listen to a news article than read it because they absorb the information better that way.

Your goal when creating a website is to design an outstanding user experience and that’s really what website accessibility is all about.

Whether customers want options or truly need accessibility resources doesn’t matter. Your goal remains the same. Delight them and show you care about their needs.

The marketing industry often focuses on how to do something bigger and better than anyone else has. This mindset can lead to designing websites that simply aren’t user-friendly.

Designers go for the most stunning visual experience for people with perfect vision. And those who use reading glasses or struggle to see minor shading differences lose in these situations.

Start everything you do with a customer-first mindset and you’ll be amazed at how it impacts your customer relationships. Simplicity is far better than wow factor when making websites that resonate with customers.

Consider these ways you can engage simplicity on your website.

· Use simple, readable typefaces and limit the number of different fonts on your site

· Write with common vocabulary words that everyone will understand

· Make sure your color contrasts are bold enough that anyone can see them, especially when you use them for highlighting words on the page

· Keep sentence structure and paragraph formats simple and easy-to-read

· Use descriptive language for buttons and calls to action

· Design websites that are simple and easy to navigate

· Follow current WCAG guidelines

Getting too fancy with your website can mean getting too complicated and leaving customers and prospects behind. Or worse, it could open you up to lawsuits from frustrated customers who feel discriminated against.

Legal Implications of Website Accessibility

While we like to view website accessibility through the lens of the customer’s needs, we can’t ignore the legal implications of failing to meet certain criteria.

Website owners have a responsibility to ensure that their website is accessible for all, including those with disabilities. Failing to do so could mean lengthy court processes, bad PR and serious fines.

Don’t fall for the “it could never happen to me” mindset of thinking consumers only file lawsuits against big companies, like the notable Dominoes case.

Experts say that the pizza chain could have fixed its accessibility problems for $40,000. But they fell for believing that accessible websites are for those that cater to individuals with unique needs. To all website owners out there, know that no matter what your business or industry is, you serve people with unique needs.

Ethical Reasons for Web Accessibility

Finally, there’s the ethical side of web accessibility. If you aren’t worried about your customer experience or the risk of getting sued, you should consider how meeting people’s needs is simply the right thing to do.

The world has come so far in considering the unique needs of every individual — from a person in a wheelchair to a mom with a stroller. We’ve built an incredible infrastructure designed to meet people where they’re at and help them live their lives without thinking constantly of what could hold them back.

Today’s consumers are choosing to back companies that support causes and initiatives that matter to them. An astounding 87 percent of consumers say they’ll buy a product because of the causes a business supports.

Website accessibility is no longer a buzzword for the marketing industry. It’s a clear set of standards for businesses to do the right thing for their customers — no matter whether the customer is facing permanent, temporary or situational needs.

Lastly, Search Engine Optimization

Accessible websites make it easier for search bots to crawl your website and improve your organic rankings. Clear page titles and sitemaps help those with screen readers understand your website. But these tools also guide search engines in analyzing and ranking your website.

The more readable your website is, the higher your search rankings and the more user-friendly your content will be. Image alt text tells those with vision impairments or whose computer doesn’t load an image what should be there. But they also provide context for search engines.

See the important relationship between accessibility and SEO? The two are deeply intertwined and improvements to one will have big impacts for the other.

At Design Positive, website accessibility is our passion. We serve as a resource to our community on the importance of website accessibility and as a sounding board for questions related to your online presence. Contact us with your questions or inquiries about website accessibility.

Design Positive is a strategic branding and accessibility agency.

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