15% of people experience globally some form of disability according to the World Bank. Web accessibility is where web designers and developers use techniques and technologies to make websites easier to use for people with disabilities. By building websites with accessibility baked in we ensure that nobody is excluded.
Eight out of ten people with impairments decided not to trust a business because of barriers they experienced. Poor web accessibility was stated as one of the top reasons for this.
As they are often ignored by most websites, users with disabilities are willing to spend more of their money with companies who provide them with a well-thought-out user experience and take advantage of accessibility features built into core web technologies. The purchasing power of this particular market is enormous.
Accessibility improvements won’t turn away your current customers but will attract new customers and improve your conversions. By acknowledging users with impairments, you’re letting them know that their rights matter, and that their business is valued.
Thirty-nine countries have laws relating to accessibility.
One of the key pieces of web accessibility legislation in the UK is the Equality Act 2010 (EQA). The EQA replaced the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act across the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland.
Under the wide-ranging EQA, UK goods and service providers (this includes both public and private sector organizations) have a legal obligation not to discriminate against people based on a number of protected characteristics – including disability. This covers people with visual, motor, hearing, cognitive and learning disabilities.
But the EQA demands more of organizations than non-discrimination. It also requires website owners to actively provide an equal website experience to all their users. The requirements of the law are crystal clear in this respect. The Equality and Human Rights Commission published a statutory code of practice to clarify goods and service providers’ responsibilities under the law. It states that the:
"…duty to make reasonable adjustments requires service providers to take positive steps to ensure that disabled people can access services. This goes beyond simply avoiding discrimination. It requires service providers to anticipate the needs of potential disabled customers for reasonable adjustments."
To comply with the law, UK website owners must therefore make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that their web content is accessible to people with disabilities – not wait for disabled people to tell them their site in inaccessible. The EQA itself does not outline the technical accessibility standards it requires of websites. So, in practice, the safest bet for organisations is to ensure their web content adheres to WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards.
WCAG represents the world-accepted standards for the accessibility of websites and apps.
It states that accessible design should be:
Designing for accessibility will definitely require more effort following established standards and guidelines. However, by making your product accessible, you can help more people benefit from the web, increase your product’s audience, and avoid legal issues concerning inaccessibility.