Our society relies heavily on technology, including computers and smartphones, as our primary method of communication. A number of common inventions that we take for granted in today’s world of technology have stemmed from a need for everyone to be able to communicate, the typewriter (and subsequently the modern-day keyboard), the telephone, and email. They’ve also become indispensable to those who don’t experience disabilities. Likewise, accommodations that make websites more accessible can also make using websites easier for everyone, not just 20% of the population living with disabilities on a daily basis. Many more will experience disabilities as they reach an advanced age, or even temporarily as a result of injury, illness, or short-term medical conditions. People with both long and short-term disabilities, as well as the rest of the population, benefit from web accessibility features, and this type of accommodation can be extremely beneficial to the public view of any company. Knowing they can count on an organization to accommodate their needs builds confidence and loyalty within your customer base. Websites that can reach everyone are even more likely to see increased page traffic.
Almost Everyone will Need Accommodation at some Point
A number of web accessibility basics make websites easier to use for those without any disability at all. Colors that are more distinctly contrasting and larger fonts make content easier for everyone to read, no matter the environment, voice commands allow you to use your phone when your hands are full or if you are driving, and auto-complete makes typing much quicker and easier. Maybe you’re in bright sunlight and are having a difficult time reading anything that isn’t highly contrasting, or you’re in a loud, crowded space and would have an easier time using captioning for a video instead of listening to it. Any of those accessible formats simplify using technology for everyone, regardless of ability.
Currently, nearly 20% of the population is permanently disabled and many more will face disabilities as they age. As medical advancements allow people to live longer, more people are developing and living with age-related disabilities, such as low vision or blindness, decreased hearing, and mobility issues. In countries where the average life expectancy is over 70 years old, people spend almost 12% of their lives living with a disability. Many older adults who experience low vision or blindness can increase the brightness or text size on a screen, or turn on TV captioning to avoid mishearing what a speaker is saying.
Accommodations are just as necessary for those experiencing a temporary disability. This could take the form of low vision due to a migraine or concussion, having forgotten a pair of glasses at home, or a damaged, irritated contact lens. Most people with vision issues, even those who don’t face blindness or low vision, have dealt with or more of these short-term problems and have taken advantage of a screen reader, talk-to-text, or high-contrast colors.
Great for Public Relations
When companies take the time to consider what is best for all of their users, regardless of ability, their efforts don’t go unnoticed. Many companies differentiate themselves by demonstrating their commitment to positively enhancing society as a whole. It’s the right thing to do, it gives their employees something to be proud of, it makes customers feel good about supporting a company who uses their money responsibly, and it provides good press for the company. Creating a culture of inclusivity and accommodation gives your organization the ability to reach everyone in your target audience, and reduces complaints and potential clients looking elsewhere for goods and services. Nearly 90% of consumers find corporate social responsibility to be important and would purchase a product because the company supported an issue they cared about. In addition to an improved image among consumers, ensuring web accessibility can also attract better job candidates and a more diverse workforce, which means more diverse viewpoints, new ideas, and fresh perspectives in the company.
Accessibility Drives Web Traffic
All of this increased attention and accessibility can drive web traffic, but that traffic may increase for other reasons as well. When people search for products or services like yours online, search engines can only detect and understand the text on your website, not images or audio. In a way, search engines perceive web content much like a person who is blind and deaf. As such, they cannot determine what a photo portrays without text, or what an audio recording says without a transcript. By adding descriptions of images and audio, search engines are more likely to be able to identify elements on your website and list your site in search results. Words used to describe images and audio also contribute to SEO words and again make your website more identifiable to search engines. Making sure headings and tabs are descriptive and logical in order will also help websites to appear correctly in searches. NPR even conducted a study that showed an increase of 6.86% in page traffic when transcription was provided for their archive of recorded programs. The text from transcription was detected by search engines, and content was more easily located by users searching keywords. Additionally, content was more easily understood and translated for non-native speakers.
The failure of companies to offer accessible websites has caused thousands of lawsuits to be filed in 2018 alone, and that number is predicted to rise in the coming years. Courts have often found defendants to be guilty of discrimination when their websites fail to allow all customers to access information, products, and services equally. More and more frequently, plaintiffs are discovering that a number of companies in one industry are all inaccessible and filing a lawsuit naming all of the inaccessible organizations as defendants. It makes sense to be proactive about accessibility on your website, given that it will increase your audience, and can prevent time-consuming and expensive litigation that will likely result in your organization being required to address the accessibility issues anyway.
Wrapping it Up
While becoming digitally accessible takes both time and money, the return on investment makes it worthwhile. You can avoid complaints and litigation, reach a broader audience, get a reputation boost, and increase traffic to your website leading to expanded business and more diverse employees.
If you’re ready to take your business to the next level and achieve accessibility, Equidox can help you make that happen. Equidox by Onix offers a full spectrum of consulting, web testing, web auditing, and PDF document conversion software and services. Whether you have an in-house team who needs help prioritizing the process, or you need hands-on help with website auditing, testing, reporting, and document conversion, Equidox offers the products and services that will get the job done.
article by Nina Overdorff, Equidox Marketer