Can accessibility help your web site?

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect
Sir Tim Berners Lee (founder of the World Wide Web)

The above quote is one that is frequently wheeled out by web developers who claim to be into web accessibility. If you search Google for “accessible web designers” it appears that almost every site you will see uses this quote from Sir Tim Berners Lee yet it comes from the mid 1990’s. The web has grown out of all proportion since.

In the early naughties (2000’s) I wrote several papers for educational publications on internet / e-learning / e-portfolio accessibilty. Today when I re-read them I see how much has developed since, yet ……… too many people and specifically companies are still ignoring the basic principles of the internet.

The internet or web – depending on your pereferences – is about mass communication, indeed the internet or web is the only tool that can cross country boundaries influencing people thousands of miles from where you are sitting right now. Why then do so many people ignore 25% of those people?

Yes I said 25% of people.

One of the governing aspects of the internet was that all users could have access to the information available on it. Yet even today most people ignore it. From a business view point that is even more appealing.

Imagine this – you have a fruit and veg shop (yes fruit & veg again but I use them as an example of a shop that we all love and use) do you activly turn customers away? – of course not.

Like every business you depend on your customers, they give you your income, they allow you to put food on the table, buy new clothes etc.

If someone comes into your shop and asks for help you give it, if someone comes into you shop who is obviously struglling with reading your lables/price tages etc. you (and or your staff) volunteer help. You will read / explain the label so that person can understand.

Yet when it comes to your website (generally) you don’t. Never fear, you are not alone, virtually every company – yes virtually EVERY company who has a web site activly turns customers away!

It is all too easy for us to ignore this very important aspect of web design because our web site designer doesn’t mention it – or (even worse) doesn’t understand it.

Ignoring dubious figures (i.e. China states that ony 6.34% of it’s poulation have a disbability – the Second China National Sample Survey on Disability) one in four – 1 in 4 or 25% – of your customers / potential customers have, or know somebody who has some form of disability.

Years ago I heard a phrase – the digital divide. At the time it was used as an example of being on broadband or not. Now I think that was an incorrect inturpritation.

The “Digital Divide” is really about the many people who cannot or do not have access to the new technologies and the opportunities they bring. These people – “socially excluded”, in the current jargon – stand on the wrong side of the “digital divide”.

Imagine you can access those people currently beyond the “Digital Divide” think of it in simple terms – your web site is seen by:

  • 100 people or 125 people
  • 1000 people or 1250 people.
  • 10000 people or 12500 people.
  • 100000 people or 125000 people.

Which would you rather have?

Like every business you depend on your customers, they give you your income, they allow you to put food on the table, buy new clothes etc.

Take the opportunity before anybody else; bridge the “Digital Divide” – become accessible.