Why your website needs to be accessible to all.

Imagine you have a disability and take public transport to work. You cannot stand for long and rely on people offering their seats in the morning rush. Sometimes you need to ask, but it is an uncomfortable experience because your disability is hidden — no one can tell by looking at you that it’s something you live with.

To the average web user — someone who has pretty good eyesight, dexterity in both arms and hands, a good set of ear drums and no cognitive learning difficulties — the Internet is a place to be navigated with relative ease. They do it everyday without much thought.

Hidden from the average user are the millions of people who don’t interact with websites like they do, which is why we have web accessibility standards.

Do you see what I see?

When a website is poorly designed, it creates barriers for anyone wanting to use it. If it doesn’t adhere to web accessibility standards, that creates even more barriers.

There are millions of Australians who perceive the web differently to those with good eyesight and hearing, full cognitive ability and movement.

In Australia, one in five people has some form of disability. This means there are over 4 million people whose capacity to use the web may be impaired, depending on their disability. People of working age (15 - 64 years), who are more likely to use the internet regularly, represent over half of this population.

If you are blind, you must navigate the web using a screen reader and you can’t use a mouse. If you are deaf, you can’t hear audio cues, files or videos and therefore require visual options, such as text and subtitles.

But, it isn’t just these stark, ‘all or nothing’ disabilities that affect web users. Not all people with low vision are blind and not all people who are hard of hearing are deaf, yet they may still require certain tools to access the web.

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Colourblindness affects 8 percent of males and 0.4 percent of females to some degree in Australia — that’s two million people. Australians with Dyslexia account for another 2 million and then there are the more than 3.5 million Australians aged over 65 whose chance of disability and physical impairment increases as they get older.

And, what about if you break your ‘mouse arm’ and need to navigate solely using your keyboard? Shouldn’t you be able to do that?

When you put all of these populations together, no matter your industry, you start to realise just how significant web accessibility is in the lives of everyday Australians.

A web where all are created equal

The mission of self-anointed purveyors of web standards, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3), is to lead the web to its full potential.

One part of this mission is to ensure the Web is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight and cognitive abilities, which has led them to construct the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for those tasked with building websites, i.e., us.

We are often asked by clients to adhere to these guidelines, but it was a proud moment for Butterfly when the National Disability Services chose us to rebuild their website with high-level accessibility compliance.

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In order for your website to function for everyone, no matter their circumstance, you need to comply with at least the basics of WCAG, as it promotes great, user-agnostic, UX-focused web experience.

WCAG compliance and accessibility standards are good for your business — if you don’t have them, some users will be driven away. But, even if you don’t think your business will be affected, adhering to these standards is an ethical choice that promotes a better web for all users and not just those with disabilities and impairments.

If you are looking to improve your accessibility standards, be assessed for compliance or are building a site from scratch, we are WCAG specialists - get in touch!

This is the first blog in a series of four about accessibility. Keep an eye on the Butterfly blog for the next installment, “What marketing managers need to know about accessibility”.

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