Web accessibility is a topic that is rarely taught in a web development course, and in fact, is often easily disregarded and overlooked by many developers. I am into web development for some years now but I had a very little idea about the aspects of web accessibility before, until recently.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web Accessibility is how far the information and functionality of a website, tool or technology are accessible to the diverse audience, who might have some disabilities. Ideally, web accessibility is to ensure that every person must be able to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web no matter what their device, their location, their ability or circumstances.
Accessibility is not just about blind people
We might have a common notion to associate accessibility with screen readers and assistive technologies that help the blind people to access the web. But, that’s just one among the many disabilities a person can have while accessing a website. Disabilities like blindness, motor, auditory, cognitive, etc., need not be generalized only to people who are permanently suffering it, but these can pretty much be faced temporarily by the fit too.
For example, when traveling in a crowded bus, one might have a temporary motor disability as he might not be able to use both his hands to navigate or type in a phone. Web Accessibility also addresses such temporary disabilities. The one-hand mode in a phone is pretty much an accessibility feature.
Accessibility improves UX
Web accessibility also significantly improves the user experience of the website. For instance, I have found reading along with subtitles in youtube really helpful while watching tutorials and speeches, and especially when I forget my headphones while traveling. As you can see a feature that is targeted to enhance accessibility, is pretty much also improving my experience of using youtube.
Similarly, keyboard shortcuts and tab-navigation help people without a mouse to access and interact with a website like Google Docs, but for others like developers, such shortcuts help to increase productivity as they can quickly interact with the system now.
Why Web Accessibility?
Other than the obvious motive of helping people with disabilities access and interact with the website, we have seen that web accessibility help when people have temporary disabilities, and also to enhance the UX of the website.
The Internet today is essential in many aspects of life from education, employment, commerce to healthcare and many more. As developers, it’s our duty that we make all the information and service on the internet is accessible by everyone in order to provide equal opportunity.
We have a lot of words that we use to describe people with disabilities. We have words like ‘differently abled’, or ‘blind’, or ‘motor impaired’, but there are some really important labels that we often forget, like ‘customers’, and ‘viewers’, and ‘students’. While members of the disability community might do some things a little differently, they are also a group of consumers twice as large as the entire nation of Australia in the United States alone. When we’re talking about so many people, we’re discussing massive buying power. People with disabilities watch shows, buy products, subscribe to services, and take classes. They’re fans, foodies, and potential brand evangelists just waiting to happen! When we make our web presence accessible to people with disabilities, we’re not just doing the right thing; we’re unlocking a huge group of customers that we otherwise would have missed out on.