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Disability on the web

Posted in Accessibility

Just like in ‘real’ life, your visitors come in all shapes and sizes. Inclusivity is—rightly—front and centre for businesses these days.

There are a couple of takes on this when it comes to the web:

  1. Everybody is entitled to access the wealth of information on the web, including your website
  2. You don’t want to lose sales by making it difficult or impossible for less able visitors to access your website

The first is clearly the more sensible reason – internet access is considered a basic human right by the majority of people. Web access is beneficial on so many levels, from access to knowledge and breaking news to the cheapest deals on your car insurance!

If this wasn’t enough, reason number two provides a more hard-nosed business reason for making your website accessible to less-abled users.

I’m going to rein in my enthusiasm and save you the gory the details on what makes a site accessible, but a brief overview is useful.

Disability isn’t a barrier

The internet is an apparently visual medium, so when I mention that blind people use the internet, many people think I’m having them on until I explain that they ‘view’ the web with a screen reader. A screen reader is a program that reads a web page to the user. Don’t forget that your pictures, videos and so on should have a text-based explanation alongside them.

Motor impairments are another type of disability that would seemingly impose a barrier to internet access but, again, this just isn’t the case! While a mouse might be impossible to use, so keyboard equivalents of mouse commands should always be possible.

Both of these groups can be catered for with well-written web pages. By that I mean that the code behind the site should be written well.

Some other considerations

What about much more common barriers – partially sighted visitors may find the text on your site difficult to read if the size is too small or the contrast with the background isn’t sufficient. Tiny dark grey text on a lighter grey background might not be the best idea!

Important content such as calls to action should take the many forms of colour blindness into consideration or you stand to confuse your colour blind visitors.

Deafness can also be a big issue if you rely heavily on audio/video content. Transcripts of your videos should always be available!

It goes beyond disability

Accessibility is a very broad subject and less able users are just the tip of the iceberg.

How accessible is your site to visitors using a touch screen device like an iPad? How quickly does it download on a mobile network? How well does it work on older internet browsers? How easy is your site to use on a small screen?

Another reason, as if you needed one

Google and it’s rivals are all for inclusivity on the web. For that reason, if your site ticks plenty of accessibility boxes you’ll see your website ranking better!

So what are you waiting for!? Talk to your web designer about your site’s accessibility and have a look at your website analytics to see what could be improved!

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More resources

Here are a couple more resources for you to enjoy. If that’s not enough, have a look at the full list.

  1. WWDC 2024 roundup

    I got al the features I wanted from this year’s WWDC, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference; as ever, there were also a few surprises!

  2. How to browse the web with the keyboard alone

    Some people use the keyboard to get around their computer. Knowing how to do this is important for accessibility testing and to inform design.