The World Wide Web was created as a way to share information between researchers and other academics. As the web evolved into the ubiquitous source of information, entertainment, and social connectivity that it is today, more people began using it—and not everyone on the internet has access to the same resources or capabilities. For example, someone who is blind may have very different needs than someone with perfect vision.
The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) was formed in 1998 as a response to this growing need for accessibility online. Their goal is to “make the web accessible to all people regardless of disability.” The guidelines they’ve developed help developers create fully functional websites for users with disabilities such as blindness or deafness.
These guidelines are called WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and there are a total of eight levels of conformance, from Level A (most strict) down to Level AA (least strict). Each level has checkpoints that must be followed for a website to be considered compliant with those guidelines. Here are the top benefits of making your website accessible.
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Better user experience
If you aim to create a website that’s accessible to everyone, it’s important to remember that there is a spectrum of disabilities. The experience of someone with one disability may be very different from someone else with the same or a different disability. Here are some of the basics you should keep in mind if you’re planning on making your website accessible:
- While many disabilities can mean difficulty reading text on a screen, it’s also possible for people with sight loss to use assistive technologies such as screen readers and magnifiers. Ensure your website is navigable with these tools by keeping things simple and avoiding overly complex formatting such as tables for layout purposes and Flash elements. Hence, they’re not ambiguous, providing instructions like “click here” and more.
- Some websites have cultural references specific to a particular language or location. If that’s true of your site, try making sure it will still make sense if you read it out loud in English while eliminating any culturally specific words or phrases. This will help bring new users into the fold regardless of their background. Don’t forget other accessibility features like captions on videos!
- People learn differently. For example, learning math concepts can be easier when information is presented visually rather than verbally (something you might have noticed if you’ve ever taken notes in class!). Make sure your website appeals to all kinds of learners by including images where appropriate!
Opportunity for more traffic
Search engines will eventually make your website easier to find, but you can speed that up by making it more accessible. Accessibility directly affects the ranking of your website, so why wouldn’t you want that?
The Internet is an international network of interconnected devices where information can be shared from any part of the world. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the same capabilities.
Some users may have disabilities that make seeing, hearing, or interacting with websites very difficult (if not impossible) without specialized software and hardware. These challenges aren’t limited to physical impairments either—performing tasks quickly and accurately can also be a challenge for some users when websites are hard to navigate and follow.
In particular, there are two important search features called mobile-friendliness and accessibility. Mobile-friendliness is designed to measure how well your website performs across various mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Accessibility measures how easy it is for someone using assistive technology like screen-readers to navigate your site, such as navigating menus or moving between pages on their own without assistance.
Higher rankings on search engines
Making your website accessible to all is one of the most important ways you can ensure it will rank higher on search engines. You might not have considered this previously, but relevance is a big factor in how highly search engines will rank your website. Of course, at the heart of a good search engine optimization strategy is making sure users can find and access your content easily.
With accessibility as part of your strategy, you’ll also be showing potential readers how much you care about them and their needs as they pursue information online. This kind of commitment to the user experience will certainly pay off on Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Pages).
Help with regulatory compliance
Website accessibility laws are growing in number, and for a good reason: all individuals have the right to access the internet. What does this mean for you as a website owner? If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give much thought to your site’s compliance with this legal requirement. However, suppose your site is not accessible to everyone. In that case, you could be exposed to legal problems, whether it’s due to a poorly designed layout or because it uses inaccessible design elements.
Avoid legal action from disabled users
Why move towards more accessibility? By embracing accessibility, you not only get to make your website responsive to the needs of people with disabilities but also give them an engaging experience that they can share with others. This ensures that they’ll never be excluded from social media or other sites, no matter what browser they’re using.
There are many types of accessibility issues—not just technological ones—and not everyone is suited for every situation or project. To avoid legal action, it’s important to be mindful of your audience and how well you understand their needs and limitations. Be sure that your solution is built around the needs and abilities of those affected by your work so that everyone involved feels valued and respected as a person rather than an obstacle to be overcome.
Making your website accessible to all can have enormous benefits for your business
Much like eating healthy is good for your health, avoiding accessibility in the creation of your website can hurt your company’s performance. The WCAG guidelines provide a set of rules that ensure you design a website that will be appropriate and accessible to all users.
Enforcing these guidelines not only shows respect to disabled communities and gives them equal access to resources, but it also has immense benefits for companies who employ these practices in their development.
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