Benefits of making your website accessible to disabled users – part 1: increase in reach

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Organisations are now legally required to make their websites accessible to blind and disabled users. Aside from the legal requirements, one of the main benefits of doing this is the massive increase in reach of their website.

The Disability Discrimination Act states that service providers must not discriminate against disabled people. A website is regarded as a service and therefore falls under this law.

Some organisations are changing their websites, but many are seemingly not making the adjustments. Disabled people don’t access their website, they say, so why should they care?

Trenton Moss, Managing Director of Webcredible (http://www.webcredible.co.uk), a web accessibility and usability consultancy, disagrees. "Companies massively underestimate the number of their site users who may have some kind of special need." He might be right. The statistics on the number of users who may face difficulties in using your website are quite startling:

Although there is inevitably some overlap between all of the aforementioned groups, adding up these numbers provides a total of 48% of the UK population that could potentially face problems using your website. It is an extraordinarily high number.

Non-disabled people may also experience difficulties using your website. Not everyone is viewing your website on the latest version of Internet Explorer, with all the plug-ins and programs that you may require them to have for optimal access. If your website relies on images, Flash or JavaScript, and fails to provide alternatives, then a number of web users will be unable to access your website. The following examples are a common occurrence:

  • Users on slow connections regularly turn images off to enable a quicker download time. Some browsers, such as the text-only Lynx browser do not display images at all.
  • Not every user has downloaded the latest Flash program that is needed to display your site. Additionally, the download time on Flash websites often takes so long that users lose patience and don't even wait to see the content. Just 17% of web users in the UK are connected to the Internet via broadband (http://www.liquidzope.com/abc/2/4currentusage/currentstatebbd/view).
  • JavaScript is a scripting language that can cause changes to a page, often through mouse functions, buttons, or other actions from the user. For example, pop-ups are opened using JavaScript. JavaScript is unsupported by approximately six percent of web users (http://www.thecounter.com/stats/2004/March/javas.php), either because they have turned it off to prevent pop-up adverts or because their browser does not support it.
  • WebTV, mobile phones, and PDAs have limited support for large images, Flash and JavaScript. You can test your website on WebTV by downloading the free viewer at http://developer.msntv.com/TOOLS/webtvvwr.asp. You can also look at how your website will look on a mobile phone with the Wapalizer, a free program available at http://www.gelon.net.

This article is part 3 in a series of 5 articles published by Webcredible (http://www.webcredible.co.uk). The full article list is:

1. Web accessibility and the law in the UK: Is Your Website Legal?

2. How disabled users access the Internet

3. Benefits of making your website accessible to disabled users – part 1: increase in reach

4. Benefits of making your website accessible to disabled users – part 2: the business case

5. Ten basic tests to check your website for accessibility

All articles are available at prweb.com

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Trenton Moss
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