Web Optimization for Disabilities and Accessibility
It may come as a shock for you to find out that your website is only optimized for 81% of the visitors. Whether you have been working to perfect your site for years, or have just started out with a new site, you will want to know about the remaining 19% your website is not optimized for. Web optimization for the disabled is becoming an important consideration.
This 19% represents millions of potential visitors who possibly have disabilities that prevent them from accessing your site and cannot engage with your site the traditional way.
The most recent US census done in 2010 shows that 19% (about 56.7 million) of the population has some disability…
This is why you need web optimization for accessibility to open up the site for the remaining 19% of potential site visitors who you didn’t even know existed. By doing this you can significantly increase your conversion. Web optimization for the disabled can be a boon for your business.
Understanding Web Accessibility
This is the practice of eliminating barriers that may prevent disabled people from accessing a website and interact easily with it.
When web optimization and accessibility is considered from the design stage of a website, the development and implementation process will proceed smoothly to the benefit of users and the site owner. This is the best way to give everyone equal access to web content such as products, information and business opportunities in spite of their disabilities.
Why Accessibility Matters to Web Optimization
The most recent US census done in 2010 shows that 19% (about 56.7 million) of the population has some disability according to its broad definition. More than 50% of this number reported severe disability, therefore, when you consider web optimization and accessibility you will be doing a lot to this group.
They will have easy access to do whatever they need on the internet, and your organizational goals can be achieved through increased conversions and better user experience.
What you did not know is that even the visitors without disabilities enjoy the ease of access and navigation on your site. When a website is designed with a focus on flexibility in meeting user needs, situations and preferences, it will get more visits and a good percentage of repeat visitors. Your website should favor even those with slow internet connections, broken arms or age related disabilities.
Disabilities to Consider in Optimizing
Everyone needs websites that are optimized for audio even if they don’t have a hearing impairment. The need deepens for those with trouble hearing. The US Department of Health and Human Services says that 15% of those above the age of 18 have some trouble hearing.
Another research paper shows that 12.7% of US citizens over the age 12 have hearing loss in both ears. And when you include those with hearing loss in one ear, the number jumps to 20.3%. Developers should consider adding a caption and transcripts for all multimedia content and have transcripts for all the audio content.
Someone with a visual disability is categorized as blind, has low vision or is color blind. It is estimated that about 10% of the adult American population (23.7 million) have some trouble seeing, even with glasses on or cannot see at all.
Color blindness is also more widespread than we care to accept, this creates a challenge to website owners especially online shops. A customer may want to buy an item but does not know how to choose a particular color.
There are tools to help in designing your site to help those with color blindness. You can even use a color contrast checker to see if your colored content passes the accessibility guidelines. You can also apply color blindness filter in Chrome using Color Oracle to let you see what those with color blindness will see.
3. Motor Disability
Those with this disability have trouble moving the mouse or have slow response time. This disability covers a very wide range including ALS, arthritis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, and Parkinson’s among other motor-related diseases. Use WebAim to learn more of the common challenges people endure in websites that are not optimized for the disabled and get the solutions available for each.
4. Cognitive Disability
This includes so much ranging from learning disability, memory deficit to distractibility. It all comes down to memory, focus, and concentration. The disabilities include memory, attention, problem-solving, reading, math comprehension, linguistics, visual comprehension and verbal comprehension.
They may seem trivial to you, but they affect the disabled user just as much as the person who cannot see.
The Web Accessibility Guidelines (WAG) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) are essential tools to make your site accessible to the neglected 19% of the population.
The WCAG 2.0 has four pillars: robust, perceivable, understandable and operable. It has 12 basics tenets:
1. Maximize the compatibility of your site with current and future agents and assistive technologies.
2. Provide the user with alternatives for the time-based media.
3. Design and make your web pages appear and function in a predictable format throughout the site.
4. Provide the user with text alternatives if the content is non-text for example symbols, large print, simpler language, speech or Braille.
5. Guide users to avoid and also correct mistakes.
6. Your content should be easy to present in various formats without its structure or content getting lost.
7. Your text should be readable and easy to understand.
8. Let it be easy to separate foreground from background. The content should be easy to see and hear.
9. Help users navigate easily to find content within site.
10. Make all the functions easily available from the keyboard.
11. Avoid designing content in a way that is known to result in seizures, for example, bright flashing contents.
12. Provide the users adequate time to read and apply the contents.
Each guideline has a wealth of knowledge to help you optimize your site for the disabled. Spend some time on the quick reference guides, and you will have a very accessible website.
You can also look at User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) and the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG). UAAG is used to make user agents like browser extensions, browsers, readers and media players more accessible, whereas the ATAG is used to make online authoring more accessible. These include blog authoring, multimedia authoring, site authoring and wiki authoring.
Evaluate your site to get its level of accessibility using expert reviewers, automated tools, and user testing. As time goes by, web optimization for disabilities is becoming a necessity. Increased competition on the internet is forcing sites to optimize to capture more leads and improve conversion.