What You Need To Know About Web Accessibility: Part One
Web accessibility allows everyone to have access to the internet. As a small business owner, web accessibility is important to reaching as many customers as possible.
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 people in the United States have a disability. That’s about 25% of the population that might not be able to use the internet if it’s not accessible. Everyone accesses the internet differently since there are so many types of disabilities, including visual, hearing, cognitive, and physical disabilities. Some people might have more than one disability and need several ways to access the internet.
If your website or app for your company doesn’t have accessibility features, some customers won’t be able to get the information they need and you could lose their business. Customers could even sue your company if your website or app isn’t accessible. Web accessibility lawsuits have increased 7% since 2019 and that’s not including the 177% increase from 2017 to 2018. The American Disability Act (ADA) requires websites to be accessible to anyone with a disability and they must be compliant to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG was created “with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.” To make sure everyone can access your website or apps, there are several accessibility features you can use. These are the accessibility features you can use to help people with each type of disability and why they are so important.
About 4.6% of American adults live with a visual disability. For people with visual disabilities to be able to use the internet, they need accessibility features that are compatible with their assistive technologies. One accessibility feature they need is image descriptions. People with visual disabilities have screen readers and need image descriptions for them to work properly. Screen readers turn text into speech and Braille. Without image descriptions, the screen reader can’t tell the person with a visual disability what’s on the screen.
Another accessibility feature is audio descriptions. It is similar to image descriptions since it describes visual details, but it doesn’t require a screen reader since it’s a separate audio track in a video. This is important for people with visual disabilities, so they can understand all of the video’s content. If there’s no audio description, they can’t get the information they need or completely enjoy the video. To add an audio description, you can use a video editing software and add an audio track which narrates the visual details in the video.
About 5.9% of adults in the U.S. have some degree of hearing loss. If your website or apps has any sound, including videos, you will need to add accessibility features. For people with hearing disabilities to be able to fully enjoy videos, they need captions on the bottom of the screen. Captions are text that tell you what’s on a recording, including words that are spoken, lyrics to music, identification of off screen speakers, and any sound effects. These captions help people with hearing disabilities understand all of the content that’s in a video and be able to enjoy everything in it. It’s important to add them to your videos, so nobody is excluded from watching them and your videos can gain the attention of more customers.
About 10.8% of the U.S. adult population has a cognitive disability, which is defined as someone who has difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions. There are several ways you can make your website or apps more accessible to people with cognitive disabilities. You should make sure all of the links, controls, and buttons are consistent and the function matches the label. Your website or app should have descriptive titles, labels, and headings, and multiple navigation mechanisms, so everyone knows where to click to get the information they want. It is also a good idea to add helpful error and success messages after submitting forms to avoid confusion. These accessibility features are important, so people with cognitive disabilities can easily access and navigate your website or apps.
In the U.S., about 13.7% of adults have a physical disability that affects their ability to walk and/or move other parts of their body. People with physical disabilities mostly use assistive technologies to help them navigate the internet, so your website or apps will need to be able to work with these technologies. These assistive technologies include alternative keyboards and mice, such as keyboards with larger keys, on-screen keyboards, touch-screens, single-key switches, sip-and-puff switches, and custom layouts. There are more assistive technologies such as joysticks, touchpads, trackballs, specially designed mice, and other pointing devices. There is also eye tracking, voice recognition, and other approaches to hands-free interaction.
To make sure your website and apps work with these assistive technologies, try to use them without a mouse and see if it works. It’s important that your website and apps work with assistive technologies, so people with physical disabilities can access them and learn more about your company. If they are too hard to navigate, especially your website, you could lose potential customers. By making everything accessible, you will gain the attention of the most amount of customers and have a great reputation since nobody will feel left out when interacting with your company.