Reasons for Accessibility
First and foremost it is illegal to produce a website that is inaccessible. The law covering this in the UK is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and has been in force since 1st October 1999. Whilst the Act makes no explicit reference to websites the supporting Code of Practice [PDF], published on 27th May 2002, does. This means that the majority of websites in the UK are already in breach.
The specifics from the Code of Practice [PDF] are:
- 2.2 (p7): “The Act makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public.”
- 4.7 (p39): “From 1st October 1999 a service provider has to take reasonable steps to change a practice which makes it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of its services.”
- 2.13 - 2.17 (p11-13): “What services are affected by the Act? An airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to the public on its website. This is a provision of a service and is subject to the act.”
- 5.23 (p71): “For people with visual impairments, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include … accessible websites.”
- 5.26 (p68): “For people with hearing disabilities, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include … accessible websites.”
No-one is better than anyone else, except in how they treat them
The web was born with a principle of inclusivity and it is the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure that it is possible for everyone to be involved.
- 2 million people in the UK are registered as having a sight problem
- Over 850,000 UK students have a disability
- 19% of UK internet users are age 65 or over
Whilst this presents some of the statistics it is also important to consider users who are colour blind (approximately 10% of the male population), those with hearing difficulties, motor impairment (including the increasingly common RSI) and cognitive impairment (for example dyslexia).
There is no technical reason that these individuals should be excluded from the internet.
Many companies have benefited from ensuring their websites are accessible. This has almost been as a side effect of the conversion rather than a main goal. Legal and General in the recent launch of the PAS 78: Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites noted the following benefits following a program of re-design:
- A 30% increase in natural search-engine traffic
- “significant improvement” in Google rankings “for all target keywords”
- 75% reduction in time for page to load
- Browser-compatibility (not a single complaint since)
- Accessible to mobile devices
- Time to manage content “reduced from average of five days to 0.5 days per job”
- Savings of £200K annually on site maintenance
- 95% increase in visitors getting a life insurance quote
- 90% increase in Life insurance sales online
- 100% return on investment in less than 12 months.
When one considers the surfing habits of the 1.08 billion people with internet access, it is clear that accessible sites are the most obvious choice for business:
- 10 million Americans surf from mobile phones or PDAs
- Depending on your statistics, up to 20% of users don't use Internet Explorer
- More than 40 countries have less than 10 Mbps
Accessibility will provide a direct benefit to all these users either by supporting the browser platform they adopt or by reducing the size of the download. There is also a direct benefit to your organization as accessible sites tend to result in:
- Cheaper bandwidth costs
- Cheaper maintenance costs
- Easier upgrades to new technology and standards
- Easier translation to alternate views and systems
It is worth noting that the most prolific user of the internet is blind. Their name is Google! In creating an accessible site you are ensuring that it is easier for search engines to read your site. This will have a direct effect on listing position.