Like a mythic beast rising from a loch – many designers, developers, and product owners seem to treat accessibility as a giant, unknown entity who will drag your project down into the depths of missed deadlines and over budget crisis.
Which all sounds lovely and terrifying but its not exactly what I’d call accurate.
Isn’t accessibility optional?
NO! I cannot stress enough how much accessibility ISN’T OPTIONAL.
Do want to get sued, because ignoring accessibility is how you get sued.
It increases dev time though
Nope. You don’t need special tools, skills, or new languages to create accessible websites. You just have to build them in accordance with WCAG.
Creating accessible websites isn’t expensive in terms of dev time and money, especially if you take it into consideration from the start (like you should be anyway).
Doesn’t it restrict your design?
If by ‘restrict your design’ you mean ‘I can no longer use super thin grey text on a grey background’ then yes. However, if you mean ‘makes my website less attractive’ then no.
Accessibility has no real impact on how visually attractive your website is and everything to do with allowing all users to use it. It is 100% possible to create beautiful websites filled with media-rich content which is interactive and engaging. Web features like forms and navigation can all be designed and built in accessible ways and still look amazing. Just look at Nomensa as an example.
Only a small number of users need it
Really? You got proof of that do you? Didn’t think so.
Let’s take a look at some numbers for a minute. Figures from Disability Sport.
- 11 million people in the UK have disabilities
- Almost 2 million people in the UK are blind
- 40,000 people under 25 are blind (or partially sighted)
- Over 80% of people with disabilities acquired them later in life (so they weren’t born disabled)
Are you telling me your business couldn’t do with a potential 11 million customers? The Purple Pound is worth around £249bn to the UK economy which isn’t exactly pocket change.
Accessibility is for everyone
Oh yeah, and making accessible websites benefits everyone. Not just those with disabilities.
You might not think its important that your app can be used one handed because the number of people with only one hand is very low, but what happens when we add in people who have broken their arm/hand? Or people who may want to use your app while they’re holding a baby or trying to drink their morning coffee? Suddenly the potential number of users who benefit from easy one handed use has increased quite a bit hasn’t it.
Captions on video used to be rare until someone worked out that you can’t always have your volume up on your phone while you’re browsing Facebook. Now, just about all Facebook videos from content creators come with captions. Everyone benefits.
There’s no other benefits
Apart from increased ranking in search engines, increased site traffic, increased usability, and better company reputation… sure no other benefits.
Many search engines are now testing sites for accessibility features and if your site doesn’t have them but your competitor does, your competitor gets a ranking boost while you slip down.
And as any SEO expert will tell you, with increased ranking comes increased traffic. And if your site is easy to use, they’re more likely to spend more time on your site, which also gives you an SEO boost!
Reputation wise, by building accessible websites you’re showing your users (and potential clients) that you take pride in your work and can deliver beautiful, accessible sites for all their customers.
You get quite uppity about this don’t you?
Yes yes I do.
Accessibility shouldn’t be the afterthought of a project or a ‘nice to have’. It should be part and parcel of your design and development lifecycle and engrained into your company culture.