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Web Accessibility Explained

With the advancement of technology comes the betterment of our lives. The access we now have to information and services far supersedes that of any previous generations. We have Google, advanced healthcare. We have the wonderful, track-pant friendly world of online shopping. A positive outcome of this particular development is the opportunity for people with impairments or disabilities to access services and products from the comfort of their own home, ultimately eliminating the difficulty and stress that comes with shopping while unaided. However, a number of companies are falling short on one very necessary technological development that ensures this process and other online services are easy use for all: web accessibility.

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Web accessibility refers to the inclusive practice of making websites usable by all people, regardless of impairment or disability. A basic perception might lead you to assume that we are not talking about a very large group of people when we address impairment and disability. However, one in five Australians have a disability. Not only this, but Australia’s ageing population plays a large part in the need for accessible websites. Two out of every three adults over 65 will experience hearing loss, while 65% of people with vision impairments are aged 50 and over. Beyond those who identify as having a disability, an accessible website reaches those with borderline cognitive limitations, mild sensory impairments and users accessing websites on mobile devices and tablets.

The model which best defines the requirements of an accessible website is P.O.U.R: perceivable, operable, understandable, robust. Most often we receive information via sight, hearing and touch. To deem a website ‘perceivable’ means that the following functions must be present: text must be able to be converted to audio for those with sight impairment; audio must be able to be converted to text for those with hearing impairments. The bottom-line is the fact that information must be able to be changed in some way so it’s perceivable to all users. The terms ‘operable’ and ‘understandable’ relate to adaptive technologies and usability respectively. One aspect of a ‘robust’ site is one that supports a number of browsers, allowing the user to choose their preferred browsing method.

When all of these aspects are met, you place the user back in control of their web experience. Recently, a blind woman filed a court action against Coles due to the fact their website is not fully accessible. Given the clear advancement of accessible technologies, there is no reason for companies not to include this in the development of their new websites. If sites aren’t accessible, it’s likely the customer will not use the service again or at worst, as Coles has now experienced, face discrimination charges.

At the core of good businesses are people. When we develop vital business tools, like websites, people must also remain at the core of the process. Including people who identify as disabled or with impairment should not be seen as a consideration, but a necessary action. You will ensure your brand has a wide reach, is inclusive and socially aware.

If you would like to find out more about web accessibility and what it could mean for your business, drop us a line at hello@raineandmakin.com