How Accessible Web Design Benefits You

Accessible Web Design is about making sure that websites are readable and usable by everyone, particularly disabled users who may have a visual or other sensory disability. But accessible web design isn’t just about getting that warm and fuzzy feeling of doing some social good. Accessability is essential to ensure your website is legal, profitable, manageble and opens your content up to as many users as possible.

The Law

In the UK, the Disability Discrimination Act makes it a legal requirement to make to goods, facilities, services and premises accessible to everyone. As well as physical premises the act covers websites and website owners are required ensure that their websites are accessible to all. All websites are covered by the Act.

  • Both commercial and non-commercial websites are covered by the Act
  • Online shops and informational websites are covered by the Act
  • Public sector, private sector and third sectors websites are covered by the Act.

The Act also allows for legal action to be taken based on personal injury. There is no need for any loss of earnings to be incurred by a claimant in order for them to raise a case. Much of the detail of the Act will be driven by case law but at present there is no maximum amount that a claimant can sue for.

The Disabled Dollar

Websites that aren’t accessible are missing out on business from upwards of 10 million people in the UK that have some form of physical or sensory disability. Furthermore, that number is rising steadily with the country’s aging population. In 2008, for the first time ever, the majority of people in the UK were over 50 years old, the age at which disability begins to increase rapidly. The Institute of Employment Studies estimates that disabled people represent a market worth of some £80 billion per year. Even a basic level of accessibilty will ensure that the vast majority of this population will be able to use a website. Accessible websites empower disabled users building brand loyalty as well as capturing business that competitors may miss.

Mobile Users

Accessible websites are open to the increasing numbers of mobile web users as well as disabled users. The last five years has seen an explosion in the number of people accessing the web from mobile devices like mobile phones, PDAs and Apple’s eponymous iPhone. The smaller screen sizes and reduced functionality of these mobile browsers can’t deliver all of the content that a PC based web browser can. However, websites designed with accessibility in mind will not require this additional content in order make them legible and usable. An accessible website might not display all its bells and whistles to mobile devices but crucially the website will still be usable. This may not be the case for some or all mobile devices when if the website has not been designed to be accessible.

Accessible Websites are Structured Websites

The basics of creating accessible pages are also the basics of creating websites that are easier to maintain. Two of the basic tenets for creating an accessible website are:

  • Structure your content in an organised fashion
  • Separate the content of the site from the design elements

Accessibility aside, this is good practice. Separating content and design will generally make your website look clearer, be cheaper and easier to maintain. The two together will make ensure that search engines index and list your site better – improving your position on search engines and getting you more relevant traffic.

Get Accessibility from Day One

Good web designers should have no trouble delivering an accessible website. It shouldn’t be an optional extra and it certainly shouldn’t substantially add to the cost of developing the majority of new websites. Trying to retrofit accessibility into an existing website can be expensive though. Getting accessibility built into your site is going to have to happen at some point, so do it up front when its cheaper and you can reap the benefits from day one.

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