Access to Information starts with Accessible Websites
Around 15% of the world population is disabled, which means 1 billion people are living with some form of disability. Yet, we still see so many accessibility and discrimination issues, even in developed countries. We still have a lot of work to do! Fortunately, technology has massively changed disabled people’s lives, allowing us to make friends, learn new skills and advocate for our rights. But what’s funny, in this day and age – we still encounter barriers when visiting websites…
Take me, for example. I am Deaf. Technology has benefited me in many ways. For instance, it has allowed me to communicate with hearing people all over the world and make friends with them. This would not have been possible 30 years ago. However, when I visit a website, there’s a high chance that there are no subtitles (if they feature a video at all). Therefore, I can’t fully access the website and its information, products or services.
Another example would be for people who need to use screen readers. If a website is incorrectly formatted (it may include poor heading structure, unclear links, or missing alternative text for images), this can prevent people from accessing all the information displayed. I’ve encountered this issue myself when I visited a news article – I prefer to turn on ‘Reader Mode’ because I find advertisements very distracting – and I noticed some paragraphs were cut off, so I turned off the reader mode, and I was right. Valuable information that I would have missed!
This is the problem with accessibility. Accessibility is multi-layered and relates to the technological solutions we can employ but also on a basic communication level. Accessibility means access to information, the same information any member of society would have access to. Unfortunately, being deprived of access to this information is not acceptable with the technological solutions we can apply nowadays and on a basic human level. This lack of available, accessible information was highlighted dramatically during the various lockdowns and daily Government briefings being shown live on TV and the Internet every day. Deaf and disabled viewers were excluded during a critical time when misinformation was rife.
How do I make my website accessible?
Even with tools that disabled people use to navigate the internet, websites will still need to be up to current accessibility standards. Google Chrome now features live captions, so I can access videos with no subtitles (even the YouTube videos that have automatic captioning turned off). However, it’s still not accurate because it cannot capture everything that is said on videos, especially people with accents or poor quality production values.
When building your online presence, accessibility must not be treated as an afterthought! Your company website is a window into your brand, it shows the values you are portraying to your client base and the values you want the world to associate with your brand. Include accessibility from the ground up when designing your website. Slapping in a plugin or adding an ‘accessibility tool’ often makes more work for the end user as they never function as intended. They are a shortcut that will turn away potential customers. If your website is fully optimised with readability, navigation, proper structure, good colour contrast and accessible content, all of a sudden, your online portal to the world just got 1 billion potential new users.
The online space has never been so saturated. All brands, organisations and companies have websites, social media accounts, and all are scrambling for more market share. Why not differentiate yourself from the competition? Go accessible today, go big today and grab yourself the opportunity for a greater market share. Remember, accessibility should extend to your online content. For example, you may have PDFs that are downloadable. Do you have easy read versions? Any and all video content should have accurate subtitles! This includes your social media content.
Get in touch
If you’d like to discuss any accessibility issues you currently have with your online presence, please get in touch with me. I am more than happy to arrange a meeting to discuss these issues and how you can implement ‘ground up’ changes that show your brand, to be, forward-thinking and engaged with your users.