What is Web Accessibility and Why is it Important?

Web accessibility is on a lot of businesses’ minds – and for good reason.

Not only can it significantly boost SEO and visitor traffic, but if you’re not web accessible you could actually be breaking the law. In Ontario, for instance, public sector organizations or private or non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees must have an AODA-compliant (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) website.

Even if you’re not legally required to be web accessible, it’s still ideal to be so. We’ll break down why that is and what it truly means to be compliant.

What is Web Accessibility?

Let’s start with a definition. Some people think that web accessibility means having a website that anyone can read or interact with. And that is part of it. But it’s not all of it.

Web accessibility doesn’t just apply to your website. It applies to all online content.

In general, this means any information that may be found on a web page or web application, including text, images, forms and sounds. Do you publish eBooks? They should be accessible. Audio-only or video-only media? There should be an appropriate alternative.

It doesn’t end there. When you’re thinking about web accessibility, it’s important think about all digital components. The emails that you send. The posts to social media.

Put into practice, this might look like:

  • Using alt-tags for images.
  • Adding captions to tables.
  • Making sure that anything on your website can be carried out using a keyboard only. For instance, don’t animate navigation buttons as dropdown buttons if you can’t use them with a screen reader.
  • Using default HTML tags.
  • Adding closed captions to video or audio elements or providing a text transcript.
  • Always using the HTML title tag.
  • And much more.

It’s important to note that web accessibility and web usability are not the same thing. When we talk about accessibility we’re not (necessarily) talking about UX – how one page flows into the next, or how responsive a site is on mobile – although those are both important elements to consider.

When we, or AODA or another accessibility-governing body, references web accessibility, it means allowing everyone full access to the Internet, regardless of ability.

Why is Web Accessibility Important?

If you are legally obligated to make your digital components accessible, then there is a very good reason why web accessibility is important – it’s the law.

But what if you fall outside that scope? Is web accessibility still important? In our opinion, yes, and here’s why:

  • Even if you’re not legally obligated to comply, you may be someday soon.

Different regions have different regulations, and they are constantly being updated. For example, if you are in Ontario and are a privately owned organization with less than 50 employees, you may not be legally obligated to comply with some aspects of AODA that larger businesses have to – but that might change in the future.

If you are already undergoing an accessibility review, it makes sense to look at everything you can do to improve in one go, rather than breaking it up. Cost-wise, this will likely be more affordable in the long run.

  • You could be missing out on a big audience segment.

According to data from CDC, in the U.S. almost one-in-five American adults have trouble with their hearing and almost one-in-ten adults have trouble with their vision. In hard numbers, the CDC estimates these categories alone contain more than 58 million individuals.

Those figures may differ slightly for Canada, but it’s still a large segment of the market. Are you okay with losing those potential customers?

  • It can win brand loyalty and trust.

If a competitor’s website is not accessible, but yours is, you could have the upper hand. As competition heats up, anything that can help make you stand out is an asset. Especially if you offer ecommerce services, accessibility is particularly important – even if you’re not legally obligated to comply.

  • It’s an opportunity for overall web improvement.

As we mentioned above, web accessibility and web usability (UX) are two different things – but they often go hand in hand. If you are undertaking an accessibility review of your digital components, it makes sense to do a UX review at the same time. Is your website flowing as well as it could? Is it mobile responsive? Are there clunky or outdated elements that are no longer working? Is there an opportunity to grow with 2019 trends?

Rather than looking at web accessibility as a hassle, it can be a real opportunity to access your whole web strategy and perhaps make some long overdue changes.

There are many other social, PR, and moral reasons we could list for why web accessibility is important, even if you’re not legally obligated, but the point remains the same. If you’re not accessible, now’s the time to change that.

How to Become Web Accessible

It might seem like web accessibility is the responsibility of your website developer. And sometimes that’s true, but it doesn’t fall only on their shoulders.

Digital accessibility needs to be taken into account by everyone, from content creators, to customer service representatives, to the marketing department, and beyond. As business becomes increasingly digital, web accessibility is everyone’s responsibility, so it’s a good idea to have a full-team strategy.

To get started, you’ll need to:

  • Understand what the legal requirements are in your region.
  • Understand what the requirements/best practices are in your industry.
  • Undertake a full review of existing digital elements.
  • Create a plan in order of priority for implementing improvements.
  • Ask for help. There can be a lot to consider when moving towards accessibility but working with a company who knows what’s involved can significantly speed up the process.

At Pulsion Marketing, we take web accessibility seriously. We’ve helped many of our clients become AODA-compliant and would love to do the same for you.

Get in touch today for a review and consultation of your current web accessibility. Call 1-888-701-4441 or visit www.digiforcemarketing.ca.