Why website accessibility standards are critical to business success.
As a business owner, you know how important your digital presence is. You've invested plenty of time into your website's design, copy, and functionality, but there could still be one key thing you could be missing - accessibility.
Website accessibility standards have been in effect since 2018. Accessibility may not be new, but there are still plenty of businesses behind on even the most minimum accessibility requirements for websites in 2022.
Improving website accessibility is important for a variety of reasons that go beyond meeting legal requirements. Let’s take a look at why access to websites is crucial for individuals and businesses, and what you should focus on in business website design to ensure you’re meeting all the right requirements.
When we’re talking about making websites accessible, we’re not talking about just making them available or focusing on site speed. When people talk about website accessibility, they’re focusing on making sure that the site can be used by as many people as possible.
There are a variety of common conditions and disabilities that can make using a website very difficult. People with impaired vision or hearing would have a lot of trouble trying to navigate a standard website. The same goes for people with learning or cognitive impairments or motor difficulties.
Luckily, there are already plenty of tools out there for people with disabilities who want to use the internet.
A person with impaired vision may need to use a special software program known as a screen reader to help them go online, or they may use a special Braille display or screen magnifier.
Someone with motor impairments may need a special mouse to use their computer or could use speech recognition software or on-screen keyboard emulators to make typing easier.
The goal of the accessibility movement is to make companies more aware of these challenges. When you know about the different ways people can access your content online, you can build websites that can easily adapt to their needs and work with popular accessible tools.
Why Website Accessibility Standards Matter
This may come as a surprise, but the UK isn’t the only country that’s concerned about accessibility. Web accessibility is a global movement, and this is a push that’s happening everywhere that has internet access.
The reason for this push is no coincidence. Better web accessibility has plenty of benefits for businesses and individuals alike. Here are some of the main reasons why it’s always a good idea to build accessible web experiences.
Expand Your Market
Did you know that it’s estimated that nearly 1 in 5 people in the UK have a disability? That number is even higher when you consider people with temporary disabilities.
Could you imagine any business advisor saying that you don’t want to reach as many people as possible? When you don’t design your website with accessibility in mind, you’re closing your business off to a sizeable portion of the population.
It’s also worth noting that more business is being done 100% online. The only interaction many people will have with your brand will be online, and you can’t count on other forms of marketing to reach them.
Don’t just think about those people as missed potential business, start thinking of them as missed revenue. It’s estimated that UK retailers are missing out on a whopping £17 billion each year by not having accessible websites.
Build Your Brand
We’re living in an era where people are making their voices heard through their buying decisions. It’s not enough for individuals to support certain causes anymore, buyers want the companies they purchase from to share their values as well.
Remember, accessibility isn’t something that just affects people with disabilities. There’s a halo effect that spreads to friends, family, employers, and caretakers. When your business makes a noticeable effort to make your website accessible, you’re building a solid positive image for your brand.
Word of mouth matters more than ever for businesses. Imagine the positives that can come from people knowing that your company is investing in providing accessibility!
Avoid Legal Trouble
Although there are plenty of reasons why accessibility matters from a business aspect, people shouldn’t forget that this is a legal mandate. Organisations and companies that lack accessible websites could find themselves in legal trouble.
It literally doesn’t pay to have a non-compliant website. You could face sizeable fines, or even get sued by an individual or organisation. Beyond that, you also have the legal costs of hiring a lawyer to manage fines and other issues.
A Note on Legal Compliance
Since these standards were passed in 2018, all public sector bodies are required to meet them. This can include central and local government organisations, along with some charities and other organisations that aren’t associated with the government.
There are some organisations that are fully or partially exempt from this rule. This can include certain charities, some aspects of websites for primary, secondary, and nursery schools, and some public broadcasting companies and their subsidiaries.
Overall, businesses and organisations only stand to benefit from making their websites more accessible. However, if you have any questions about legal exemptions and requirements, it’s always a good idea to talk to a lawyer about these matters.
What it Takes to Build a More Accessible Website
Now that you see all of the ways having an accessible website can benefit your business or organisation, we’re ready to dive into what you need to make your site accessible. If businesses want to meet current accessibility standards, two things need to happen.
The first is that businesses need to have their websites designed in accordance with the international accessibility standard set by the WCAG 2.1 AA or the European equivalent, EN301 549. The second is to publish an accessibility statement that people can easily access to learn about what your site is doing for accessibility.
There are plenty of tools like Google’s Lighthouse that you can use to access the current accessibility of your website and help you create a more accessible website in the future. It’s also worth noting the benefits of working with an agency or consultant that understands the ins and outs of building an accessible website.
Getting the right tools and help is an important first step, but knowing what needs to be fixed is crucial. Here are a few tips that can help you create an accessible website.
Focus on Keyboard-Friendly Navigation and Layout
Assistive technology like adaptive keyboards, screen readers, mouth sticks, and trackball mice make it easier for people to navigate websites. While these tools are incredibly helpful, they’re far more useful when websites are built to use them.
You can’t predict what kind of assistive tech people will want to use on your site. However, you can make it easier for them to navigate by making your site as keyboard-friendly as possible.
Visitors should be able to access the most important parts of your site by using the tab and other keys. You can easily do this by defining anchored links, outlining focused elements, and ensuring that all of your in-page interactions utilise buttons.
Follow ARIA Standards
If you want a simple and comprehensive understanding of what it takes to create an accessible web experience, read up on ARIA. ARIA is essentially a set of guidelines designers and developers can follow to make what they build easier to use with assistive technology.
The idea of having to redesign or rebuild a website to make it accessible can be stressful. You may not have the bandwidth or time to invest in a total redesign or rebuild now. Despite that, there’s still plenty you can do in the meantime to make meaningful changes.
Make sure that all of your images have alt-text added to give screen readers something to identify when they’re going through the site. Give people the option to display larger text in certain areas. If you have videos on your website, take the time to type up a transcript so visually impaired visitors can still enjoy your content.
Building a More Accessible Future Together
Access to websites shouldn’t be based on your abilities; everyone deserves an equal chance to enjoy everything the internet has to offer. Website accessibility standards are always changing, so make sure you have a trusted partner on your side that can help.
There’s so much more that could be said about creating accessible web experiences. And we’re more than ready to help create a more accessible website for you and your customers. Get in touch with us today so we can start talking about your accessibility needs.