Why Accessibility Matters in Web and Software Design


In today's digital world, web and software applications are the gateways to information, communication, and essential services. But what if these gateways slam shut for a significant portion of the population? This is the reality when accessibility is an afterthought in design.

Accessibility means creating interfaces that are usable by everyone, regardless of ability. This includes people with visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive disabilities. Often overlooked, accessible design isn't just about ticking a social responsibility box. It's about smart business and creating a more inclusive web.

Reaching a Wider Audience

Let's dispel the myth that accessibility is a niche concern. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 15% of the global population experiences some form of disability. That's a massive potential user base you're excluding with a non-accessible design. Accessible features like clear captions for videos, proper keyboard navigation, and good color contrast benefit everyone, not just those with specific disabilities. Think about users on slow internet connections who need fast-loading pages, or people using screen readers who rely on descriptive text alternatives for images. By designing for accessibility, you're inherently creating a more user-friendly experience for everyone.

Beyond Compliance: The SEO and Business Case for Accessibility

There's a strong legal argument for accessibility, with many countries having regulations mandating accessible web design for government and public services. But the benefits go way beyond compliance. Accessible websites tend to rank higher in search engine results. Here's why:

  • Search Engines Love Well-Structured Code: Accessibility best practices often align with clean, semantic code. This code is easier for search engines to crawl and understand, which can improve your search ranking.
  • Better User Experience Means Better SEO Signals: Search engines like Google increasingly factor in user experience metrics like time spent on site and bounce rate. An accessible website that's easy to navigate and use will keep visitors engaged, sending positive signals to search engines.

In short, accessible design isn't just good for inclusivity, it's good for SEO.

The Future of Inclusive Design

Accessibility isn't just about ticking boxes. It's a core design principle that fosters innovation and a more inclusive digital landscape. As technology evolves, so too do the tools available to create accessible experiences. From voice control interfaces to AI-powered image recognition for generating alt text, there's a constant push to make the web more usable for all.

By prioritizing accessibility, you're not just creating a better product, you're creating a more equitable and inclusive digital world. So, the next time you design a website or software application, remember: building for everyone is not just the right thing to do, it's good business and good SEO too.

Improved User Experience

Accessible websites and apps provide a better user experience for everyone, not just those with disabilities. For example, captions on videos not only help people who are deaf or hard of hearing but also provide a transcript for those who cannot listen to audio at the moment. Other accessibility features such as high contrast mode and easy-to-read fonts can also improve the user experience for people without disabilities.

How To Know if Your Website or Software Has Accessibility Standards in Place

Now that we know accessibility is important, how do you know if your site is up to standard? There are many tools you can use to test pages on your site. We use two tools, one is a browser extension called Wave. This extension will point out color contrast issues and best practices that may be missing, like missing form labels, alt text for images and icons,  and heading hierarchy. This tool helps us get sites most of the way there and if free. It's great tool to use while your developing your site and helps you see if your current site needs some work. We also use a paid tool that does a full website scan to get deeper results. Lastly and most importantly we use our experience. A scanning tool isn't enough. You may pass all the checkboxes, but the goal is to make your website easy for everyone. Just because it passes a scan or even if it doesn't, it doesn't mean your website is or isn't accessible. Scanning tools tend to give some false positives Experience and common sense play a necessary role.

If you're not sure your website is accessible please reach out. We'd be happy to take a look and offer our help.

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