Are you losing up to 20% of your potential customers?

Making your website more accessible is becoming increasingly important. Web accessibility is often perceived as a complicated subject and, sometimes, difficult and/or expensive to achieve in practice. This article explains:-

  • What web accessibility is and where to find useful resources
  • Why it’s in your business interest to practice web accessibility
  • Options for adding web accessibility, and in our case (spoiler alert) the solution we adopted

If you want a demo of how our website can be viewed by someone with a range of disabilities, simply follow the directions below:

To see the AccessiBe solution in action, visit any page on our website (including this one) click on the accessibility icon at the bottom-right corner of the screen and you can then change our user interface yourself to suit your preferences.
black and white AccessiBe trigger button

There are at least four good reasons why web accessibility is good for business:

  1. Around 8 million people of working age in the UK reported themselves as being disabled. Alienating up to 20% of the population is clearly not good for your brand or reputation. Even more so these days as awareness of Corporate & Social Responsibility (CSR) is influencing the spending habits of Millennials and Generation Z (representing approximately 22% & 26% of the population as of July 2017).

  2. It’s already a legal requirement in many countries and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes more strictly enforced in the UK. Businesses are at risk of having legal action taken against them for non-compliance. For example Robles v. Domino’s Pizza in the United States, 2019.

  3. Because it’s the right thing to do. A website that makes it difficult or impossible for anyone with a disability to use is clearly indefensible. The internet should be there for everyone, with access to the same information and services regardless of any disability. Your visitors will appreciate you for it.

  4. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, Web Accessibility is also good for SEO! A website that is easy for anyone to use will by definition deliver a great User Experience, which as we should all know by now, is at the heart of good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
mature couple seated on sofa looking at accessible website on a tablet

A fully accessible website also benefits people without disabilities by making your site:-

  • Easier to use on smart devices
  • More user-friendly for older people whose eyesight or hearing is fading
  • Accessible to people with short-term disabilities i.e. broken arm or lost glasses
  • Easier to use in brightly lit rooms or in places when listening to audio is an issue i.e. in quiet/silent workspaces or in noisy areas or where privacy is required

5 Frequently Asked Questions on Web Accessibility

In this article we are going to dig deeper and answer five frequently asked questions on Web Accessibility.

  1. What Is Accessibility and How Does It Relate to Websites?

  2. Why Does Web Accessibility Matter?

  3. Is Web Accessibility a Legal Requirement?

  4. What Do I Need to Do to Make My Website More Accessible?

  5. How Do I Go About Making My Website More Accessible?

We’ve provided links to further support materials including a helpful Web Accessibility Checklist to help you assess your website, which is free to download further on in this article.

If at the end of this article you want to know more about Accessibility or would like an audit of your own website, you can arrange a free consultation with us.

1. What Is Accessibility and How Does It Relate to Websites?

PC screen with text accessibility

The go-to source for information on web accessibility is The World Wide Web Consortium – or W3C for short – currently led by none other than the inventor of the world wide web himself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

W3C defines web accessibility as follows: Websites, tools, and technologies that are designed and developed so that people with disabilities are not excluded. Web accessibility covers all disabilities that affect a person’s access to the web which fall into the following categories:-

  • Auditory e.g. those who are completely or partially deaf
  • Cognitive & neurological e.g. dyslexia, speech disorders, difficulties in processing sensory information, seizure disorders such as migraine, epilepsy etc
  • Physical – mobility of upper/lower limbs and manual dexterity
  • Speech
  • Visual

Some features of a website that can impact accessibility and the overall user experience of someone with a disability can be as simple as:-

  • Flickering Content: anything typically within the range 2 – 55Hz can induce seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy. And it’s not just websites we need to consider here. Social media posts containing flashing images can also trigger seizures as reported by The Epilepsy Society to the BBC
  • Poor Navigation: navigating a very complex or inconsistent website can be very confusing for people with cognitive disorders
  • Use of Fonts: Serif fonts are thought to be problematic for dyslexics as they can appear blurry or distorted
  • Similarly, text with too much contrast can appear blurred to dyslexics. On the other hand, high-contrast text benefits the visually impaired
  • Layout: Long sections of text, condensed text, poor use of headings, justified text, and word spacing can cause difficulties for those with learning or cognitive disorders
  • The need for “precision actions”: for example the use of dropdown menus, hovers, the size and spacing of buttons and links, and content that shifts as it loads can make life difficult for those who find it hard to control their movements. Some neurological disorders that cause twitching or jerking can be triggered by this. Similarly, those who use a mouth-stick (i.e. quadriplegics or those with arthritis) will find it more difficult to use the website
disabled floor sign in blue and yellow

An international collaboration of governments, organisations and individuals resulted in the establishing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and has become the accepted international standard for website content accessibility. The latest version, WCAG2.1 was published in June 2018 and WCAG2.2 is due to be published later this year.

Back to list

2 Why Does Web Accessibility Matter?

Every day between 20 and 25% of visitors to your website will have a disability of one form or another. Anecdotally, 82% of people with access needs said they would spend more if websites were more accessible to them, and 51% of millennials were more likely to engage with a business that demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The video below provides examples of how poor web accessibility can affect disabled visitors.

How Can My Business Benefit from Accessibility?

Good accessibility is also good for business. This article by the W3C neatly sets out the benefits: –

Driving Innovation: 

Accessibility features in products and services often solve unanticipated problems. Google’s Eve Anderson (now Director of Accessibility) when interviewed back in 2016 cited examples where investment in accessibility resulted in unforeseen innovations that we take for granted today, for example:

  1. Contrast minimums required for people with limited vision makes screens easier for everyone to read in bright sunlight
  2. Voice access and voice search is now commonplace
  3. AI now provides context for photos to aid image recognition
  4. Auto captioning is also mainstream now in most video platforms

Enhancing Your Brand: 

Barclays Bank found that establishing an organisation-wide accessibility strategy that adopted inclusive technology as part of their brand identity resulted in greater engagement with colleagues, existing customers and potential customers.

Extending your Market Reach: 

We mentioned earlier the number of people affected by disability in the UK and worldwide. Statistics taken from Scope’s website tells us (using data taken from the DW&P Family Resources Survey 2018/19 and other sources) that:

  • 19% of working-age adults are disabled
  • 44% of pension age adults are disabled
  • The combined spending power of families with at least one disabled person is approximately £274 billion a year

That’s a significant chunk of the market that is frequently overlooked when businesses neglect to factor web accessibility into their marketing plans.

close up of red button on keyboard with Bye

The Survey shows that over 80% of these customers will spend their money not necessarily on the website that offers the cheapest products, but where fewest barriers are placed in their way.
In fact, 71% of these customers will click away from websites that do not cater for their access needs.”

Click-Away Pound Survey 2016 – Final Report

By making your digital content more accessible, you’ll reach more customers, increase customer satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge over those who don’t include accessibility features. How many visitors could you be losing to competitors simply because their site is more accessible than yours?

Minimising Legal Risk: 

Many countries have laws requiring digital accessibility, and the issue is of increasing legal concern. More on this below.

Back to list

3. Is Web Accessibility a Legal Requirement?

The legal situation surrounding web accessibility differs from country to country. Suffice to say governments and regulators are taking an increasing interest the rights of people with disabilities to participate in online digital information and services:-

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) includes a direct reference to the rights of all people to have equal access to communications technology. Passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, more than 175 countries had ratified it by 2018
  • The European Commission adopted the European Accessibility Act, requiring ATMs and banking services, PCs, telephones and TV equipment, telephony and audio-visual services, transport, e-books, and e-commerce to meet accessibility requirements
  • In Norway where it’s now illegal for commercial websites to fail to provide equivalent access for people with disabilities – the government fines commercial companies that do not comply
  • Austria has had customer protection regulation in place since 2006 requiring most public websites to meet accessibility standards

There are a growing number of high-profile legal actions (see the earlier example of Domino’s Pizza). Other examples are:-

hand holding judge's gavel

What about the UK – where do we stand on web accessibility?

As far as the UK is concerned, website accessibility was first considered within the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

However it wasn’t until the Equality Act of 2010 (EQA) that legal protections were introduced for people with disabilities, formally stating that websites need to comply with equal access and web accessibility standards.

Section 20 of the EQA requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments to provide an equal online experience for people with disabilities. Section 29 of the Act prohibits discrimination by failing to provide the means for users to make the necessary modifications they need to be able to use their sites.

The UK Government now mandates that all UK public sector body websites must meet the AA level of WCAG2.1 as a minimum stating “You may be breaking the law if your public sector website or mobile app does not meet accessibility requirements.”

Back to list

4. What Do I Need to Do to Make My Website More Accessible?

We referred earlier to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which sets out in detail how to make web content more accessible.

Fortunately, the US-based A11Y Project have produced a very practical and informative checklist with clear explanations on the main areas where website can be improved to become more accessible. This extensive checklist covers:-

table of accessibility topics

The UK Government Home Office has also published a set of seven very useful infographics for their own teams to use to help meet the accessibility regulations:-

Back to list

5. How Do I Go About Making My Website More Accessible?

There are two key ways to make your website instantly more accessible:-

  • Ask an agency to do it for you
  • Use a plugin or code injection

Which option you choose will depend upon:-

  • what website platform you are using
  • your level of expertise
  • your available resources and
  • your available budget

The first step to making your website more accessible is to carry out a full audit to test for compliance with WCAG2.1. There are a number of online website accessibility checkers which usually allow you to check a page at a time. Alternatively, you can arrange to have a free Accessibility Audit of your key landing page by contacting us using this link.

Our audit will reveal what adjustments you may need to make, and you can then decide whether you are able to implement them yourself or if you require additional support.

Depending upon what features are available to you if you have a template-based website (e.g. Wix, Squarespace, etc) and on your level of programming knowledge, you may find that you need to contract a website designer or developer to make the necessary adjustments.

There are many organisations who – for a fee – will regularly monitor your website, automatically report the findings, make recommendations and offer support.

Here at CBL Copywriting & SEO, we opted for a session-based User Interface (UI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution, AccessiBe. This allows our site visitors to adjust our website according to their individual requirements (fonts, contrasts, colours, navigation etc) without changing our source code. The AI also addresses the back-end requirements for screen readers and keyboard navigation.

To see the AccessiBe solution in action, visit any page on our website (including this one) click on the accessibility icon at the bottom-right corner of the screen and you can then change our user interface yourself to suit your preferences.
black and white AccessiBe trigger button

We don’t know for sure when the UK will begin enforcing web accessibility. But regardless of which option you choose, it’s important to make your website is accessible for ALL visitors regardless of any disability. It’s good for them, it’s good for your SEO and it makes good business sense.

Back to list

About the author: Alan Say is one half of CBL Copywriting and SEO, an award-winning marketing agency based in Hertfordshire, UK.  Alan advocates web accessibility as part of our SEO services. For more information please contact us.