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There’s a good business case for making your website more accessible to the UK’s disabled community.
If your website is at the design stage then ask your designer what they’re doing to ensure that people with sight difficulties and cognitive impairments can still use your pages. It’s undeniably easier to build accessibility in from the start.
Don’t despair if your website is already up and running, though, you can still retrofit.
Boost your client base
It’s not just best practice or ethical to ensure your pages are accessible, it has the potential to make a real difference to your customer base.
According to the Employers’ Forum in Disability – a global collection of employers dedicated to helping firms recruit and retain staff members with disabilities – just over 10% of people in the UK have some form of disability.
The disabled community also packs a powerful spending punch. According to the forum, they have an estimated £80 billion-worth of spending power in the UK and 71% of UK disabled people use the web to find information on potential purchases.
Of course, needs will vary quite dramatically, but the point is that a sizeable minority of the population have additional requirements when browsing your site. So, if your pages comply with best practice, you’re going to add to your potential client base.
Not only that, if your competitors are failing to make their websites accessible, you could be winning their clients.
Don’t break the law
Although it would be unlikely to reach court, particularly for a smaller business, you do actually have a legal duty to make your website accessible.
That’s for two reasons. If you’re hiring, it’s potentially discrimination to make it difficult for applicants with sight impairments to access your recruitment pages.
Secondly, under the Disability Discrimination Act, providers of services (that’s most commercial websites, then) have to make their make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access that service.
Search engine optimisation benefits to accessibility
Another plus for accessible websites is the potential search engine optimisation (SEO) benefits. Search engines may struggle to assess images, audio and video content, but if you’re providing transcripts and alternative information for people with sight or hearing problems then this can really boost where you rank in the search engine results pages.
How can you find a decent designer?
If you’re still planning your website, then you’ll want to find a designer that can deliver accessible content, but how can you be sure they have the experience?
Question potential agencies about their previous work creating inclusive pages and ask for references. The company should be familiar with assistive technologies, like screen readers, and understand the relevant points from the Disability Discrimination Code of Practice.
Where to find good design advice
One organisation really championing the cause of online accessibility is the Royal National Institute of Blind People, which is working hard to educate the online community.
This charity has a wealth of online guidance on designing and building websites, covering everything from structure to colour.
The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is an international body that works to develop strategies, guidelines and resources to boost the internet’s accessibility to people with disabilities. It has an excellent library of resources.
Even if you’re planning to leave it all in the hands of your web design agency, it’s worth understanding what makes a site accessible, so you can be confident your pages are usable to as many people as possible.
Three good reasons to make a website more accessible
So, there’s a legal requirement to make your services accessible and, let’s face it, an ethical reason to make sure your pages don’t discriminate.
However, it can be hard for a business to make budget available without seeing a potential return on the investment. Fortunately, I think there is a strong business case for ensuring the whole online community is equally served by your site.