Why web accessibility is important
Having your products and services available online can be hugely beneficial as this can increase your reach of consumers and provide easier access for them to use or purchase these at a time that suits them, however if your web application fails to meet accessibility standards you could be creating barriers for disabled consumers and in turn be missing out on a share of around £420 million in business each week¹.
In the United Kingdom in 2018/19 it was reported that 21% (14.1 million) of people had a disability which is around one in five people, and accounts for 19% of the working age population². A disability could be a long-term illness, or a temporary or permanent disability. Types of impairments are often grouped into these categories:
• Mobility and Touch – The person may have issues using a mouse or keyboard device due to cerebral palsy, tremors or a physical disability with their limbs or hands
• Vision – The person could be blind, have reduced sight or colour blindness
• Hearing and communication – The person could have difficulty hearing or have a speech related disorder
•Cognitive and learning – The person could have a learning difficulty like dyslexia or cognitive disorder such as dementia
To get around their impairment, disabled consumers will often use assistive technology to support them in completing online tasks on a website or application. Assistive technology can be devices or systems including:
• Screen readers
• Speech recognition
• Eye gaze
• Content magnification
• Keyboard navigation
If your web content is difficult to use or not useable at all with the support of assistive technology this could frustrate a disabled person and in turn force them to ask your frontline or call centre staff for help in providing an alternative accessible option, or avoid using your service altogether.
To protect disabled people here the UK Government brought in the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations in 2018 to support the Equality Act 2010 which details website accessibility and the right for disabled people to have access to everyday products and services. The main part of meeting the regulations is passing the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. The guidelines include recommendations and testable success criteria for making the web content accessible to a range of people with disabilities and allowing everyone to access and use the web content. These guidelines lay the foundations for web accessibility and are organised into four POUR principles:
• Perceivable – The user can perceive all the information that is being presented
• Operable – The user can navigate and use the interactive components
• Understandable – The user can understand the information and how to use the application
• Robust – The user can access the web content using a range of assistive technology
Here at Profusion we are making sure the people involved in delivering our web applications including our project managers, designers, developers and tester are competent in web accessibility and the (WCAG) 2.1 accessibility standard. Part of our upskilling process has involved:
• The team attending accessibility webinar/training sessions
• Shared learnings from previous accessibility testing and audits
• Documenting accessibility learnings, testing tools and guidelines on our knowledge base so the team can access this information when they need to.
• Discussing accessibility considerations with our clients and project team early in the project and throughout the project lifecycle
Overall, we want to be able to support and advise our clients on best practises and deliver web applications that are accessible to all by removing accessibility barriers consumers may have in using and purchasing products and services.
¹ Extra Costs Commission: Interim technical report, March 2015
² National Statistics: Family Resources Survey: financial year 2018/19, 26 March 2020