Accessibility Affects Everyone

“An accessible web page makes all content available to any human user who wants it regardless of browsing technology.” WebAxe

In your browsing experience on the web, you may have heard the word ‘accessibility’ mentioned. If you did a quick web search, you saw that it was to help people who are disabled access the web.  That is true and it’s still a primary driver, but the benefits of accessibility affect everyone. One example is phone numbers.

Marketing people like to use words, substituting letters for digits, in their phone numbers. So you might see “1 800-your-mom” instead of  “1 800 968-7666”.  They do this for 2 reasons. First, people are better remembering words than numbers. Second, it helps with their branding.  The convention is based on the original rotary phones, and then touch tone phones.  It was useful in years past, but its quickly becoming an outdated strategy. As more people use mobile devices with full QWERTY keyboards, the letters no longer matchup with the digits, and the solution becomes inaccessible.

Everybody needs access

I agree that disabled people have been treated as second class citizens on the web. Sometimes, not considered at all. There has been some forward progress thanks to the web standards crowd through the use of alternate stylesheets, semantic markup, and considering whether someone could use their design with a screen reader.  With that said, to sell accessibility as a way to assist disabled people sometimes does more harm than good for the cause (increasing adoption of accessible design). Most people don’t identify with the disabled community, unless they happen to know someone. In fact, its not even on the radar for most businesses. So when it comes to their company website, accessibility is not considered during the website design process. But if it were, it wouldn’t cost that much to add it. Adding it afterward, just like security, is always a more expensive process. If you discuss accessibility in terms of the non-disabled users, it’s likely businesses will see the value more readily. As a result, the disabled users get what they need.

Data from a U.S. Census Press Release

In a press release titled “More Than 50 Million Americans Report Some Level of Disability” released May 12, 2006, The U.S. Census Bureau provided a number of important statistics. Below is a quote from that report.

“About 18 percent of Americans in 2002 said they had a disability, and 12 percent had a severe disability, according to a report released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Among people with disabilities, more than half of those 21 to 64 years old had a job, more than 4-in-10 of those ages 15 to 64 used a computer at home and a quarter of those age 25 to 64 had a college degree.”

Perhaps this will get businesses addressing accessibility as a primary concern, if for no other reason than that it could increase their bottom line. Here’s to hoping.

One Response to “Accessibility Affects Everyone”

  1. Andrea Hill says:

    Too often I think marketers and business folks look at the Pareto Principle (the 80-20 rule) and think that the added cost for making things accessible isn’t worth it. What they don’t realize is that many folks think that way! If you look at the stats about disability, there is a HUGE untapped market just waiting to be tapped into!