Having spent a bit of time recently speeding up the response of a few websites I manage (although there’s a lot more to be done), I’ve turned my attention to accessibility. This general term means the usability of sites for those with hearing, visual or physiological impairments.
This is an easy thing to ignore. Certainly most web designers, in my experience, do just that. But I can sympathise with them. What subcontractor wants to argue with a client who demands that the website conforms to the company’s black-on-red corporate colour scheme, even if it would be illegible to some users?
Until they sit down and watch someone with hearing, visual or physiological impairments, most people without disabilities don’t know much about the requirements of disabled users. Frustratingly, many sites could be made accessible with a series of low-cost changes, which would not have any impact on other users.
It’s easy to dismiss quietly this group of users as being too small to be commercially important, because admit it, that’s what we’re doing if we don’t consider them. It would also be a mistake. Accessibility can help every user, by making websites easier to use, for example when we can’t play audio, when we’re in brightly-lit environments and when we have limited internet connection. Also, Google is moving more and more towards using ‘page experience’ in its rankings, and this could well include accessibility factors.
A quick way of assessing our own websites is the WAVE Evaluation Tool from webAIM.org. We should all follow the report, and ask our website designers to implement the most obvious improvements …as well as bear all this in mind more seriously when we next restyle or redesign our websites.