By Neil Harrison LL.B. (Hons)
Should all websites be accessible?
The Equality Act states that service providers must not discriminate against disabled people. A website is regarded as a service and therefore falls under this law, and as such must be made accessible to everyone.
Some organisations are making accessibility improvements to their websites, but many are not making the accessibility adjustments. Disabled people don’t access their website, they say, so why should they worry about accessibility?
There are, however, two very good reasons as to why businesses should start taking these issues very seriously:
- An accessible website will make you more money
- An accessible website will save you money
Below are some explanations for this:
Your Website Will be Easier to Manage
An accessible website separates the content (the words and images that we see on the screen) and presentation (the way that these words and images are laid out) of each page. Each web page has an HTML document that contains the words and images for that page, and calls up a CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) document that includes the presentation information. The CSS document is shared by all the pages on the website.
To adjust the layout of your website, you only have to make changes in the CSS file. This saves you a lot of time and therefore money. If you want to make small, more specific adjustments, you can add local style tags as and when required.
Your Website Will Be Compatible With New Browsing Technologies
In the near future, the use of PDA’s, mobile phones and in-car browsers will all regularly be used to access the Internet. The people making use of these new technologies are generally high-income people. In order to reach this lucrative target, you’ll need a website that is accessible to these machines. To test your website, try using it with the Opera mini simulator, which shows how your site will look on a mobile phone.
Your Website Will Appear Higher In the Search Engine Results
The more confident a search engine is of your website’s purpose, all other things being equal, the higher it’ll place your website in the search rankings.
You Won’t Have to Incur Legal Fees
The RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) and the DRC (Disability Rights Commission) have been exerting pressure on companies and the government to make their websites accessible. Indeed, the DRC has now published their findings from their accessibility investigation of 1,000 websites. They’ve warned firms that they’ll face legal action and the threat of unlimited compensation payments if they fail to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.
The Download Time of Your Website Will be Significantly Improved
Accessible websites generally download quicker than websites with poor accessibility. Just 25% of web users in the UK are connected to the Internet via broadband. You can be sure that if your website takes much longer than ten seconds to download then many of your site visitors will be clicking away and you’ll lose them.
The Usability of Your Website Will Be Enhanced
There is a certain amount of overlap between web accessibility and web usability. It’s been shown that a usability redesign will increase the sales and conversion rate of a website by up to 100%.
You’ll Gain Good Publicity
Make your website accessible to everyone and more and more people will get to know about it.