07 February, 2007

Web Accessibility – What is it? What are the benefits?

It’s time we started talking about Web accessibility and the benefits it can bring to you and your business. It is after all, a specialist subject for us. We are in the process of documenting the benefits specifically for blogs, but the contents of this post are contextual enough for normal Web sites and blogs.

So, I’ll start off with some basics to get things started. Sorcha will probably take over the conversation with ongoing tips and updates about the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative. Sorcha is Segala’s WCAG representative and spends around 6 hours of her time each week helping to create WCAG 2.0. Adrian and David are both well versed in this space also, so feel free to ask for advice any time.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility addresses the issues that face people with any form of disability who wish to use the Web. Specifically, Web accessibility means that people with a disability can use, understand, navigate, communicate with, interact with and contribute to the Web.

Web accessibility is not only a corporate and social responsibility but it is now also a legal requirement in many countries such as the USA with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 and the UK, under the 1995 Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) Part 3.

How is Web Accessibility Measured?

w3c acc initiative

The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), are used by government authorities, industry bodies, and organisations around the world as a means of measuring accessibility conformance.

Some disability agencies and government departments have developed their own guidelines but these too are based on the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Guidelines.

Why is Web Accessibility Important?

As the Web becomes increasingly important in our every day lives, accessible Web sites can help people with disabilities participate and contribute more actively in society, both online and offline. It is essential that Web sites are accessible in order to provide equal access and opportunities to people with disabilities.

Accessibility is also important to ensure search engines are able to rank and index your Web site properly. This is known as organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and accessibility plays an important role to ensure that you can maximise your ranking potential in a search engine.

The Benefits

There are a number significant benefits that have a direct commercial impact, either by enabling a potential increase in business, or by cutting costs for your business.

  • Broaden the reach of audience that can use the site
  • Increase traffic to the Web site
  • Expand potential market share
  • Increase search ranking potential
  • Improve the site and increase usability for all visitors
  • Generate positive PR and brand awareness
  • Demonstrate a commitment and care for people with disabilities
  • Comply with legislation to reduce legal liabilities
  • Protect the brand
  • Standardise Web design, build and maintenance
  • Cut overall production costs
 

12 Responses to “Web Accessibility – What is it? What are the benefits?”

  1. Paul Littlebury 12 February 2007 at 9:01 am #

    There are so many websites that dont follow accessibility rules, and that is in part due to the direction web development was going – focussing on media-rich websites, with little regard for actual requirements.

    Web 2.0 seems to have changed the direction somewhat, and the web accessibility initiative is welcomed. Following these guidelines will not only cater for disabilities, but will lead to sites that are efficient, and prepared for the (almost mythical!) semantic web.

    A return to good coding and design principles is wholly welcomed, and it is good to see the W3C adopting a much more public stance, than they have done previously.

  2. sorcha 14 February 2007 at 3:42 am #

    Lack of awareness of the benefits of accessible coding is one of the biggest reasons so many web sites didn’t follow accessible design principles. Media-rich does not necessarily mean inaccessible – generally, it will require an extra effort to provide equivalent alternatives to this content – that is “equivalent facilitation” – in the form of text of captioning.
    Web 2.0 has provided many benefits to the accessible design drive in the form of emphasis on semantic mark-up, but Web 2.0 has also presented some of the greatest challenges. Features such as aggregated content and user generated content are creating much debate in the WCAG working group, such as how do you control conformance to accessibility guidelines with user generated content? How you ensure the accessibility guidelines level of aggregated content? These are questions that are going to continually challenge accessible design. In terms of Web 2.0, I think this is only the tip of the ice-berg.

  3. [...] Lastly, we have some accessibility issues to address. [...]

  4. [...] In the interest of taking advantage of existing expertise within the W3C, the group reviewed guidelines that already existed and started with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines help developers build sites that are accessible to as many people as possible. In short, Web accessibility is about making sure all visitors [users/people] on your Web site can access the content regardless of ability. [...]

  5. [...] Web Accessibility – What is it? What are the benefits? [...]

  6. [...] In the interest of taking advantage of existing expertise within the W3C, the group reviewed guidelines that already existed and started with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines help developers build sites that are accessible to as many people as possible. In short, Web accessibility is about making sure all visitors [users/people] on your Web site can access the content regardless of ability. [...]

  7. [...] Make it easy for disabled users to access the same information as everyone else. This can be achieved by making sure their Web sites are designed and built with best practice techniques in mind. The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the defacto guidelines used to help developers build accessible Web sites. [...]

  8. [...] Make it easy for disabled users to access the same information as everyone else. This can be achieved by making sure their Web sites are designed and built with best practice techniques in mind. The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the defacto guidelines used to help developers build accessible Web sites. [...]

  9. [...] Make it easy for disabled users to access the same information as everyone else. This can be achieved by making sure their Web sites are designed and built with best practice techniques in mind. The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the defacto guidelines used to help developers build accessible Web sites. [...]

  10. [...] Disabled users will want to know which sites comply with specific W3C Web accessibility guidelines, to enable them browse the Web in comfort. This is now a legal requirement in countries such as the UK, US, Canada and Australia [...]

  11. Andrew Designer 29 August 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    Really interesting stuff here. Nice to know about new things for us designers. ;)

  12. LA Headshots 13 March 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    There are so many websites that don’t follow accessibility rules, and that is in part due to the direction web development was going

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Founded in 2003 and privately owned, Segala is a specialist in testing and certification.

Segala’s mission it to help make the Web more reliable, safe and trustworthy. Our method of certification helps us to realize this mission by exposing more information about the suitability of each website in search results – enabling users to make informed decisions about which sites to visit. Read More…

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