Are you one of the many organisations discriminating against disabled people without even realising?
Accessibility is the concept of whether a product or service can be used by everyone—however they encounter it.– Interaction Design Foundation
The business case for accessibility.
Accessible and inclusive design principles improve the overall user experience for everyone, not just those with a disability. In addition to tapping into a market that you may be missing, improving website accessibility could see you benefit from higher customer satisfaction overall. Providing all users with the same experience is an essential component of any digital strategy.
Disabilities that could affect how difficult it is for people to use your digital platforms include:
- neurological issues
- full or partial blindness
- difficulty speaking
- motor skills
- learning difficulties
Aside from supporting users who are registered as disabled, accessible websites and digital products can also help:
- anyone with a temporary disability – maybe someone who has broken their wrist or lost their reading glasses
- people whose experience is location dependent, i.e they might be outdoors and dealing with light glare, or on public transport where they can’t watch/listen to a video or audio recording.
- users subject to a poor internet connection or those with bandwidth limitations (more common than you might think, even right here in Australia).
- older people (that’s around 19% of the Australian population), many of whom have come to depend on digital to help them maintain their independence.
There are no disabled people, we are all just temporarily abled.Henry Viscardi Jr, Disability rights advocate.
It is actually against the law to discriminate against a person with a disability, whether you realise you’re doing it or not. At time of writing, web accessibility guidelines are just that, a set of guiding principles that you may choose to implement or not. However, digital accessibility is an area that is becoming more regulated, and rightly so, with a handful of cases resulting in lawsuits, which are also steadily on the rise.
Meeting your digital accessibility obligations would help you side-step any potential legal issues and make sure you’re not missing out on market share. Providing fully accessible digital platforms could add to your bottom line, helping you to reach more people regardless of their status or situation.
More than that, it’s about doing the right thing.
Read more about your obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act:
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes ver 4.1 (2014)
How can you make your website accessible?
In an ideal world, this is a question to ask at the start of a digital project, be that a new website, website redesign or other digital platform. Of course we rarely find ourselves living in an ideal world, but that doesn’t mean we should wait until a new project comes along before we seek to make our digital assets accessible. The good news is, changes you make to improve the accessibility of your website can have a positive knock-on effect for your business – improved user experience. Both offer a positive ROI.
Website accessibility can be hard to implement, but not as hard as you might think.
I’m the first to admit, it sounds a bit scary. The website accessibility guidelines are long and intricate and if you’re not across the technical terms they can be somewhat overwhelming.
The good news is, making your website accessible isn’t as difficult as you might think. With that in mind, here are 5 practical things you can check to improve website accessibility.
Practical Website Accessibility – 5 easy fixes
Note: This isn’t a comprehensive list, rather a guiding set of principles – quick wins for non-developers – that will help you to get a few steps closer to delivering an inclusive online experience.
1. Use strong color contrast
A beautiful looking website isn’t necessarily a practical one. As a minimalist designer myself, I understand how easy (and tempting) it is to put form over function, but as designers, product owners and stakeholders, we must go to great lengths to make great design choices that are accessible to all, otherwise, we are doing a disservice to both our clients and their customers.
Sufficient color contrast is essential if you want all your users to be able to interact with your digital products.
With shiny, high resolution retina displays being the first choice for many designers, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same luxury.
Your website redesign might ‘pop’ on your perfect display, but what device is your customer using? Even if they have the latest iPad Pro, is it possible they might be viewing your website outdoors where light reflection is an issue? What about the people with deteriorating eyesight (a.k.a everyone over 40), or those living with colour-blindness (1 in 12 men).
This really is one of the easiest changes you can implement to improve your websites accessibility.
How to ensure you have sufficient color contrast:
If you’re working to a Style Guide created by a branding specialist, you’ll need to get together and agree on an additional set of colours that are suitable for digital. Where no style guide has been created, decide on the level of accessibility you are aiming to meet and define an accessible color palette.
There are no end of tools available to help you meet minimum color contrast requirements. My favourite is contrastchecker.com I usually aim for a minimum ‘AA’ rating using this tool.
Note: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have three levels of conformance, with ‘A’ being the lowest and ‘AAA’ being the highest. My advice is to start at the start (profound I know) – once you attain an ‘A’ rating you can implement gradual improvements over time.