“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
Tim Berners-Lee, 1997
What exactly is web accessibility?
Web accessibility is the removal of technical impediments that could limit access to or interaction with a website by any person with disabilities. The goal of a web accessible site is to allow all users equal access to all content and functionality.
Some disabilities that web accessibility can address
Visual: Visual impairments up to and including complete blindness, various common types of poor vision, color blindness
Motor Skills: Difficulty using hands, tremors, Bradykinesia, loss of detailed muscle control, etc., due to conditions such as Parkinson’s, MS, stroke, and other movement disorders
Auditory: Hearing impairments up to and including total deafness and including the hard of hearing
Cognitive: Cognitive impairment and learning disabilities (Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, etc.) that may affect memory, attention, problem-solving and logic skills.
Temporary Disabilities and User Experience
When developing with accessibility in mind there will almost certainly be some unexpected good fortune. For example: if a person breaks her primary hand, and is forced to wear a cast, she may temporarily lose the ability to operate a mouse. The developer didn’t plan to cater to the temporarily disabled, but well-designed keyboard navigation could surely save the day for such an accident victim.
Accessibility is also good for user experience (UX) in general. If you're holding a baby and find that you can navigate a site without having to use your mouse, that's a positive user experience. If your eyesight isn't so good, but you've got nice, big readable content, that's a positive user experience.
Why does web accessibility matter?
It’s the right thing to do.
Here’s a chance to make a positive difference in many people’s lives. Improving a site’s accessibility will make that site better for all users and will likely improve its position in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). So be a good citizen and contribute to web accessibility! Make the web a better place for everyone!
It may be required.
There are various state and federal laws regarding web accessibility.
Some organizations and businesses have faced legal action for non-compliance with accessibility guidelines. Even if you were to win such a challenge, the cost in legal fees and in lost time would be substantial. Why risk exposing your business to the possibility of a legal challenge.
It’s good for business.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2002 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), there are 51.2 million people with disabilities in the United States. That’s 18.1% of the U.S. population! Those folks need goods and services too, some of which are very specialized.
Millions of people with disabilities shop, travel, buy cars, buy homes, eat out, go out and participate in most of the same activities as their fully-abled friends, neighbors and family. Web developers are in a unique position to work towards the good of all to advocate for and to help facilitate these behaviors. We all benefit.
- Web accessibility is becoming easier to achieve and more unified with web standards as time passes.
More to come
This series on Web accessibility will continue with the following:
This post will highlight the laws and governance related to web accessibility efforts.
Here we will provide a primer on assistive technologies and tools you and your developers can use to make your site more accessible.