It’s important that we strive to live in a world that’s fair to everyone and that goes for accessibility. Those that may find it difficult to navigate everyday activities due to disability are faced with similar problems they experience in the real world, online.
The internet can be a space that is accessible to everyone and there have certainly been a lot of improvements made over the years to make it user-friendly. However, there is still room for more positive changes to be made.
A study by WebAIM found that for the top 1,000,000 websites, over 51 million of them had accessibility issues with their homepages. Considering this is the creme de la creme of the internet’s web pages, it’s a problem that still needs work.
How has accessibility changed over the decades when it comes to the internet and has physical laws done anything to improve it? What accessibility software now exists to benefit users online? Let’s explore the state of accessibility online in today’s digital age.
How physical accessibility laws have helped improve accessibility online
There are a number of physical accessibility laws that have paved the way to make actionable changes to accessibility online. Despite the laws in place today, it’s still been a challenging road for those with a disability, to have access rights and to change their surroundings to better suit them.
Here are some of the physical accessibility laws that have come into power over the last decade or so:
- Telecommunications for the Disabled Act of 1982 – required telephone services to be accessible for those with hearing impairments.
- Technology-Related Assistance Act of 1988 – was introduced to raise awareness to the public regarding assistive technologies.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 – a game-changer for civil rights that prohibited discrimination against those with disabilities.
Are there laws that have since been introduced in relation to the internet? The difficulty with the internet is that it’s not governed by any one country or organization. That makes putting laws into place pretty much impossible.
However, there are some countries that have introduced their own laws and regulations that ensure their country-based sites are complying with the rules in place. For example, in the US, businesses that fall under certain titles within The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must have a website that has ‘reasonable accessibility’ to those with access needs.
Unfortunately, though, such vague requirements don’t prove too useful to those looking for access needs online.
5 benefits of accessibility software
There are many benefits that come with introducing accessibility software and in general, making your site more user-friendly for those with access needs. Here are some of those benefits that are worth considering for your business website.
1. Helps improve your online content reach and engagement.
Improving your site’s reach and engagement is always a positive thing for your business, especially as it can help you target a wider audience both in diversity and volume. In today’s internet market, companies without accessibility features are losing $6.9 billion a year to their competitors that are accessible.
Having accessibility software in place like audio to text transcribing is helpful to provide content that’s made for everyone in mind.
With online content being king, it’s important that you’re making full use of your audience and catering to everyone that finds your site, no matter who they are. Take a look at your homepage and the various landing pages you have that could do with updating to be more accessible.
2. Avoids discrimination and legal action taken against you.
There have been a number of legal cases that have been taken against businesses because of their lack of accessibility online. A few high-profile ones like Beyonce and her website have likely given many businesses that operate online, the kick they need to make changes to their own.
After all, no one wants to be faced with legal action that ends up resulting in financial payouts and reputational damage. For a lot of small to medium-sized businesses, that kind of damage can be hard to come back from.
The lack of clarity that the ADA provides when it comes to accessibility online is what can prove to be difficult for businesses when making the right changes to their website.
However, a good source of knowledge is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). They have accurate and detailed guidance that can help to ensure your site is compliant and fully accessible to your users. This is a site you should be referring back to as and when to check you’re staying up to date as a business.
3. Builds a positive reputation for the business.
Building a positive reputation for your business is of high importance for any that has a presence online. Many consumers nowadays are actively supporting those that go out of their way to help the wider community and the world around them.
From concerns about the environment to discrimination online, reputation can be gained through good acts like improving accessibility on your site. Consumers tend to look for more than just a transaction too nowadays. They want to be a part of a company whether it’s sharing their beliefs and values to just feeling like a part of something bigger.
Taking a stand on web accessibility can benefit a business in many ways and can help encourage other businesses within your industry and beyond, to do the same. For good PR, writing an accessibility statement for your website is worth doing.
5. Improves SEO and the ranking of web pages.
An accessible website can do a lot more than just serve your audience with a user-friendly experience. It can also help with improving SEO and positively impacting the ranking of your web pages. While Google has never revealed its secret recipe for appeasing its algorithm, implementing search engine optimization is worth doing.
Website accessibility goes very much, hand in hand with SEO. Easier navigation and easy-to-use interfaces are the formulae that make for a successful website.
When it comes to improving SEO, you may have an in-house team that can do it all for you. However, if you’re lacking the resources internally, it’s always worthwhile outsourcing it.
5. Better usability and user experience for online users.
Talking of SEO, the topic of usability and user experience for online users is something that’s tied into the world of SEO.
In order to be more accessible, it’s important to make your products, services, and the general online interface more useable for those with disabilities. Usability is all about how well the user interacts and navigates your site. No one wants to be met with a 404 error page or a button on a site that doesn’t link properly and therefore serves no purpose.
The WCAG website provides plenty of information on how you can improve the usability of a site, especially as it can deliver a better user experience for each and every person that goes onto your site.
Things like a menu bar that helps users locate everything easily to larger text that’s easy to see and doesn’t class with the background of the site. Using alt text is also a great way of helping those with visual impairments to know what’s on the page they’re exploring.
The importance of internet accessibility
Internet accessibility is important, especially with the digital age highlighting anything and everything that is deemed discriminatory or unjust in its approach. As a business, it’s an attack you want to avoid and it can be easily done by taking responsibility for the contribution towards access needs.
It can seem easy enough to ignore and dismiss making a site access-friendly because the majority of your traffic doesn’t need these features. However, morally and legally, it’s essential you’re doing your bit to acknowledge accessibility and the need for more of it online.
What is the state of accessibility online today?
There’s no denying that there are a lot of people who navigate online and who have accessible needs. For example, there are at least 2.2 million people with near or distance vision impairment and more than 466 million people worldwide have a hearing disability.
While there are still many websites out there with a lot of influence online doing very little to improve accessibility, that doesn’t mean your website needs to follow suit. With that in mind, let’s round off this article with three call to actions that you can do for your website to improve accessibility.
- Introduce accessibility software where applicable.
- Work with your web design team to make accessible-friendly changes.
- Stay up to date with WCAG so your website remains compliant always.
With just a few small changes and efforts made, your business can make your user’s experience that little more successful and beneficial. Don’t neglect those that need access needs when it comes to your website.
Author Bio: Natalie Redman (LinkedIn)
Freelance writer for many clients across multiple industries. Natalie has two years of copywriting experience. Natalie has a wide range of experience copywriting for web pages for businesses across many industries. She’s also an owner of two blog websites and a Youtube content creator.