As Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, said: “The power of the Web is in its universality…
..Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” This universality can only be good for business, reputation and loyalty.
What is accessibility?
Web accessibility is the creation of digital resources on the web that everyone can use. Most of the time, this term is used in relation to websites and how those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities use them.
A universally accessible internet benefits everyone, giving all people the flexibility to access digital materials in whatever way they want or need to.
What is universal design?
Universal design is the idea that accessibility and usability standards should be blended together in order to create technology that is usable for everyone. It means considering people’s diverse needs in the initial design period. Some of the benefits of universal design are:
- Flexible and adaptive to different users’ needs or preferences
- Accessible through a variety of different technologies, including smart devices and assistive technologies
- More cost effective than designing websites that need to be re-designed for accessibility later.
How will it benefit my business?
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the leading international web accessibility organisation, believe accessibility overlaps with other web design best practices such as:
- Responsive design
- Device independence (the ability to run on a range of devices. E.g. an app that can run on both Android and iOS operating systems)
W3C have also developed some case studies and the results show that accessible websites perform better in search results, therefore leading to an increased audience reach. It stands to reason that the more people that can find and access your website, the more your business will thrive, and the easier it will be to sustain and grow your business!
Is it difficult to implement universal design?
As with anything, a good web developer will be well aware of W3C standards and should incorporate universal design into your website anyway. But there are a few things you can do to ensure your website is accessible.
These are things that affect the ‘look and feel’ of your website and will be mostly down to design.
- Provide appropriate alternative text for images
- Provide an appropriate structure to web pages to give clear meaning (headings, lists etc.)
- Provide headers for data tables
- Ensure all users can complete and submit all forms
- Ensure links aren’t context-bound (“Click here for more info” opposed to “Click here for more info”)
- Provide a caption and/or a transcript for media (video and audio)
- Make sure other files such as PDF, Word and Power Point documents are accessible
- Allow users to skip through repetitive elements of a page (E.g. Headers)
- Do not rely on colour to convey meaning
- Make sure content is clearly written and easy to understand
Intellectual and Social Standards
Technical standards are important but they cannot guarantee accessibility: technology is always changing. By keeping certain things in mind when you’re setting up your website you can ensure accessibility remains at all times.
- Humans are all different and diverse, and design should reflect this
- Accessible design is innovative design
- Technology has the potential to be a great equalizer but inaccessible technology excludes people
- Have user-focused policies
Universal design will help your website and business in a range of subtle ways: boosting search rankings and increasing audience numbers, reducing the cost of designing for a range of channels and effectively future-proofing your website, and establishing your website and business as a reputable, trustworthy and user-friendly entity.