In an era in which the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities has declared access to information and communications technologies such as the web to be not a mere luxury, but actually a basic human right, it’s fair to say that accessibility will be a key factor when you invest in web design for your own site.
However, the ease of access to the World Wide Web in recent times for such a wide range of individuals has not only led online businesses to adapt their websites out of a sense of social responsibility. That’s because, if firms fail to invest in web design that caters for those people of all age groups in addition to those that speak different languages, they also run a severe risk of missing out on vital sales.
What’s more, this is certainly not something that is likely to decrease in importance in the coming years, amidst the continued global economic uncertainty. It applies equally to those people that have visual, physical or auditory disabilities, and nor should you underestimate the amount of research that is required in order to make your website fully accessible to someone with just one of these disabilities.
Let’s imagine, for example, that a given visitor to your company website has a visual disability. They may be fully blind, in which case it is probable that they will surf the net with the use of a screen reader. This type of device reads the website content aloud, but does not read the design.
This makes it necessary to investigate the way in which your own site will be read by such a device, which you can do simply by searching for your website via Google and clicking the ‘Cached‘ link next to its search result. There should then be a ‘Text-Only Version’ link in the top-right-hand corner for you to click. You will then be able to see approximately how a screen reader will read your company webpage, from top to bottom. If the page isn’t laid out very well, then it’ll be a bit nonsensical for a blind user!
On a related note, there are also tags that are designed to show alternative text for images so that users of screen readers can learn what the image actually is. When such tags are used appropriately, they are invaluable in maximising the accessibility of your website, but unfortunately, some SEO companies simply use them as an opportunity to stuff in a few extra keywords – so take care.
It’s also possible that someone with visual disabilities is colour-blind, in which case they may not be able to distinguish between the writing on your website in one colour, and the background in another colour. This naturally creates the need for a version of the site that is designed around their needs.
Finally, your website is also likely to receive visitors that are partially sighted, who may perhaps be older and routinely use reading glasses. For such users, a larger text version of your site can be especially appreciated.
By investing in truly accessible website design, you can improve your relationships with present and prospective customers and quickly reap the business benefits!