Think for a moment about how you navigate around the websites you use. You read the content and the labels to figure out where you need to go. You probably use a mouse or trackpad to click through to the right pages. Maybe you use a keyboard to enter your login details or to sign up for a service.

It’s easy, right? But what’s it like for people who can’t interact with websites in the same way you do?

The fact of the matter is that 1 in 5 people in the UK are living with a disability. For some, that’s a permanent disability. For others, it’s a temporary disability that will ease over time. And for others, it’s a situational disability: something that means they’re unable to function as they normally do, due to their surroundings or environment. Disability is more common than you think.

And yet, the web is largely inaccessible.

The inaccessible web

Despite the prevalence of disability, most websites are not accessible to those who are unable to interact with websites in the ‘standard’ way. In fact, one study even found that as many as 70% of websites could have accessibility blockers. Accessibility blockers may include the following:

  • Poor contrast ratio which makes text, buttons, and labels difficult to see
  • Incompatibility with screen readers and other assistive technologies
  • Lack of subtitles for video or audio content
  • Labels located on the opposite side of the screen to checkboxes
  • Hover interactions that require the use of a mouse

That’s just a small handful of potential obstacles that many users face on a day-to-day basis. And interestingly, the web was always intended to be accessible. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web, even said that he ‘imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere, to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographical and cultural boundaries’. As things stand right now, that simply isn’t possible.

Why digital inclusion matters

If so many websites aren’t accessible, then why should you care about digital inclusion? It’s a good question. After all, why should you put the effort into building an accessible site if no one else does?

Well, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, if you’re operating within the public sector, then it’s the law. It’s as simple as that. Under the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018, it’s a legal requirement for public sector businesses to make their sites accessible. And even if you’re not in the public sector, there are still laws around websites. You’re still legally required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to your website, if requested for accessibility purposes, under the Equality Act 2010.

But legal issues aside, you should care about digital inclusion because you’re a socially responsible business. There’s no better reason than that. Making your website accessible to anyone who wants to access it – regardless of their sight, their hearing, their mobility, their dexterity, or anything else – is the right thing to do. Why alienate 1 in 5 visitors when there are simple ways to include them?

The wider benefits of accessibility

Designing with accessibility in mind can benefit your disabled visitors, sure. But it does more than that. When you build a website that’s rooted in the needs of the user, you’re creating improved experiences for everyone. And at a time when user experience is everything, that matters.

Google is increasingly interested in user experience. So much so, in fact, that user experience factors now play a major role in its ranking algorithm. So when you design for experience and accessibility, you’re designing sites that are fast-loading; sites that are simple; no-nonsense sites that deliver what they promise. Google likes that. And it’s rewarding these sites with better positions in the SERPs.

Don’t alienate your audience

Discrimination has no place in today’s digital landscape. Everyone should be able to have the same experience on your website, no matter what. And that’s why accessibility matters. Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception that businesses need to choose between cool, attractive websites, and plain, boring, accessible sites – but that’s far from the truth.

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Our Website Care Plan helps our clients stay accessible and improve the experience for their audience. Get in touch to chat about what an accessible website can really do for you.

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