For many businesses, web accessibility is viewed as more of a hassle or statutory requirement than a good business practice. Accessibility only becomes important when compliance with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (or a similar state regulation) is required to win a contract. The reality is that an accessible website enables your business to reach a wider audience and is easier to maintain.
Everyone in your target audience, regardless of ability, should be able to access all of your web site’s content and functionality. While there are many resources that can help you attain accessibility — the Web Accessibility Initiative is a good one — it all boils down to adhering to coding standards and best practices.
Let’s examine the four, key benefits:
1. SEO Will Improve
Search engine spiders, like Google’s, are users, too, but they need all the help they can get with establishing context. Accessible web sites use the appropriate headers, alternative text, and other structural elements tell users what is important. This is the essence of search engine optimization: letting the world know what your web site is all about in a language everyone understands.
2. More Tolerant of Upgrades
Things change. New versions of popular browsers get released, new devices that allow users to access the web become available, and web and application standards change constantly. An accessible site written to coding standards will have far fewer problems adjusting to the new environment. When you start using hacks to do something in a non-standard way, this not only reduces your site’s accessibility, but also makes it more fragile in a changing world.
3. More Responsive
Web accessibility directly addresses the concerns of users whose abilities require that they interact with or consume your content in non-standard ways: text for auditory experiences, sound for visual experiences, a variety of input devices beyond the keyboard or mouse, or any number of other approaches. If your site can handle a user who increases the text size by 200%, it can deal with a viewport that is 1/3 the size of the typical device. This is not to say you don’t have to worry about responsiveness, it’s just that you’ve already done much of the work by making your site accessible.
4. Allows You to Capitalize on Opportunities
You may not be doing business with the government now, but what if you have an opportunity in another market, such as education, which requires accessibility? You will already have the box checked. This will give you a leg up.
A lack of accessibility in your web site should be considered part of your technical debt. It is another one of those things that can hold you back, keeping your web site – and maybe your business – from achieving its potential.