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Embracing Web Accessibility Guidelines

By July 27, 2023July 31st, 2023No Comments
Web Accessibility

The internet has evolved into an indispensable aspect of our lives and plays a vital role throughout our communication, education, business and more. With billions of us accessing the web on a daily basis,  it has become more and more crucial to provide an online environment that is inclusive and accessible to everyone. Web Accessibility, the practice of designing and developing our websites to be usable by people of all abilities, is a crucial aspect of creating an inclusive digital space. Hiring a web design company that prioritizes and adheres to Web Accessibility guidelines is no longer a choice; it is a moral and legal obligation when we create a new piece of digital content. Let’s explore the significance of Web Accessibility and why it must be at the forefront of considerations when creating a new website.

What is Web Accessibility and Why is it Important?

In the digital marketing and design industries, the term ‘Web Accessibility’ refers to the practice of designing / creating websites and apps that incorporate tools and display content that can be used by people with disabilities. Nowadays, it’s extremely important (for legal reasons and more) that your business’s website supports and displays content in a way that people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments can also use it. Accessibility in web design aims to ensure that all website users, regardless of their disabilities, can also access and interact with your digital content.

The importance of following Web Accessibility standards with your new website project, also stems from the fact that disabilities are diverse and affect a significant portion of the global population (inclusiveness in web design is a moral responsibility). In the US alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that approximately 61 million adults live with some kind of disability. It’s important to keep them in mind when we build, write or publish online content. Neglecting accessibility not only alienates a large user base, but also potentially violates anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Legal Implications and Compliance

As websites have become an integral part of business, entertainment, education and more, providing services that adhere to up-to-date Web Accessibility guidelines is no longer an option when building your website. Sites that do not comply with accessibility standards can result in legal inquires and possible litigation for businesses—a non-accessible site is more vulnerable to lawsuits and financial penalties.

Recently, there has been a surge in accessibility-related lawsuits (and there are attorneys who specialize in searching out sites that are not following the rules) making it more crucial and risky for website owners to neglect accessibility. Many of the high-profile cases that are being filed against companies these days for having inaccessible websites may have been easily avoided if they followed a few design guidelines. The courts so far, have consistently ruled in favor of accessibility in a lot of these cases, establishing a legal precedent that compels businesses and website owners to make sure their websites are inclusive. By choosing a web design company that prioritizes Web Accessibility in their design flow, business owners can minimize the risk of litigation and at the same time demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity.

A Broader Reach and an Enhanced User-Experience

Designing your website with current accessibility standards in mind not only benefits users with disabilities, but it also enhances the user experience (UX) for all of visitors of your site (think about more users with the ability to view your content). Following Web Accessibility in your code and design leads to a cleaner, more organized website (although it may limit creativity somewhat) with clear navigation, optimized images and videos, and usually faster load times in general —this also helps with SEO. Overall, these code and design improvements will result in a more positive user experience—increasing engagement, and potentially boosting conversions and sales.

To add to these benefits, an accessible-friendly website is just better equipped for an aging population, as well. Older people tend to experience a natural drop in their sensory and motor skills, and can find it more difficult when navigating the web than younger folks. The importance of web accessibility in web design and throughout digital marketing will only grow with the evolution of the web.

SEO and Accessibility

Web Accessibility and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) share a symbiotic relationship. Search engines tend to favor accessible websites because they provide a better user experience and the content is laid out in a way that helps search engines crawl and index it. Descriptive alt text for images and proper heading structure, as well as many other design and coding techniques also positively impact SEO rankings.

When you are considering hiring a web designer, make sure to search for one that adheres to the current accessibility guidelines. As questions about it throughout your interview process and by doing so your website may have more success in the SERPS (Search Engine Ranking Positions). Hopefully you’ll reach a larger audience because the Search Engines can easily follow your content— potentially increasing your organic traffic.

Brand Reputation and Corporate Social Responsibility

Brand reputation is more critical than ever in the current age of media and digital transparency. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of a company’s social and ethical practices and can either follow or unfollow a brand online based on their digital persona. Embracing Web Accessibility is just a great demonstration of corporate social responsibility, showing your customers/ clients, and partners that your business is committed to inclusivity and equality, and take it very seriously.

Accessible websites can build more trust with your website users, who will feel more valued and respected when they can access information and services without the common barriers they likely face with unoptimized sites. This trust can possibly lead into increased customer loyalty and more positive word-of-mouth marketing (the benefits go on and on), amplifying your brand’s reach and its impact.

The Cost-Effectiveness of Prioritizing Accessibility from the Start

One common misconception is that designing an accessible website is unaffordable. While it’s true that implementing accessibility measures during the development process may require additional resources and there are a ton of agencies and services charging an arm and a leg for accessibility features, no doubt that the cost of retrofitting an inaccessible website later after the design process is complete, can be significantly higher.

By hiring a web design company that incorporates accessibility from the beginning of your project and quotes you fairly, your business can avoid a lot of the expensive, time-consuming process of reworking your website to meet standards. To add to this, accessible websites are just much easier to maintain and update—resulting in long-term cost savings.

The End Result Will Be Worth It

Web Accessibility is not an optional add-on to a website any longer; it is an ethical obligation and a legal imperative in the current digital world. Hiring a accessibility-conscious web design company is now a must, for any business to create an inclusive digital presence and help reach a broader audience (while also avoiding legal ramifications and threats from attorneys looking to scare you into a settlement). Accessible websites really do enhance the overall user experience for all visitors, and also do their part in contributing to more improved SEO rankings and a positive brand reputation. By committing to accessibility from the start when building your site,  your business can foster an inclusive online environment and position themselves as leaders in corporate social responsibility. Investing in accessibility is an investment in a better, more equitable online world for everyone.

Mike Kotler

Author Mike Kotler

Mike Kotler is Creative Director at 1Brand—a small team of expert designers, developers and marketers based in Chicago. He is a graduate from the University of Florida, an animal-lover and a die-hard Chicago sports fan.   Read a recent interview with Mike from Voyage Chicago.

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