Good Design Enables, Bad Design Disables

In this week’s blog we’re looking at the topic of Online Accessibility, and how implementing simple and basic online procedures on your website and other online platforms can not only result in a much more engaged audience, but open your business up to a €220 Billion market.

Firstly, let’s look at some statistics based on our home markets of Ireland, the UK, and USA. In Ireland, the 2011 census showed that 600,000 people reported having a disability, which equates to 13% of the population. There are 20 million blind adults in the USA, and approximately 19% of the US population has a recorded disability. The numbers in mainland GB are similar, with over 10 million people registered disabled – that’s 19% of the working population!

And there’s more…Across Europe, 80 million people have declared a disability, with 20.6 million American adults reporting vision loss. These figures are over a year old, so add on a percentage of your choosing to calculate today’s numbers!

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In order to put all of this into perspective, let’s look at some impairments that stop people accessing online businesses just like yours! We can break impairments into four main categories:

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There’s any amount of short-term causes of these impairments, none of which you need to worry about in terms of your website and online accessibility. We’ve all experienced some (if not all) of them, such as:

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What businesses and organisations today must be aware of are the long-term impairments or disabilities that hinder, discourage and altogether block a huge global market segment from accessing the online information you have to share. These permanent impairments are things like:

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You’ll see there’s an obvious and clear difference between what businesses should consider barriers, and what aren’t. So, before we go any further, it’s important to define exactly what accessibility is.
Well, accessibility is the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. Just to be clear at this point, this definition never once mentions that accessibility is “only” or “exclusively” for those with disabilities, it simply means your website and online environment should be designed for everyone, including those with impairments. Not a single iota of user experience need be diluted having an accessible website. That’s an important thig to say, and remember, at this point.

One of our partners is a company called Texthelp, which has created specialised software for people with reading and writing difficulties (talking spell checkers, word predictors, screen readers etc.). We integrate their “browsealoud” technology on lots of our websites, and we couldn’t recommend it enough!

In addition to Texthelp and other specialist technologies, there are many things your business can do online to ensure accessibility is for all. There would be no point in rallying for fully accessible websites across the board if accessibility was difficult to achieve. It’s genuinely not. Here’s just a few simple things your business can do right now (literally) to make a massive difference to a €220 billion marketplace.

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And there’s more you need to think about, such as your use of colour within your website. We were staggered to find out that over 224,000 people in Ireland alone (and 285 million globally) have a degenerative eye condition that can’t be corrected. Additionally, colour blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women globally. There’s over 2.7 million people in the UK alone with colour blindness, equating to 4.5% of the entire population. Businesses have to be aware that what they are showing online is often not what their visitors are seeing at the other end.

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Other ways you can be an Accessibility Hero and Open your Business up to a Huge Global Audience:

• Use clear Headings
• Ensure page titles are descriptive, yet succinct!
• Don’t rely on JavaScript for things that don’t need it
• Avoid mouse-dependent interaction
• Use standard web formats when possible
• Provide transcripts and captions for videos
• Allow multiple ways of finding content (e.g. search, site map, contents table)
• Provide useful links to related and relevant resources
• Ensure URL’s are human readable and logical
• Present a clear and consistent navigation and page structure
• Define abbreviations and acronyms

We at i3 Digital think accessibility online isn’t an added extra, but an essential element of any website. Don’t take just our word for it, here’s what the main man himself has to say about his very own creation:

The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.

Tim Berners-Lee inventor of the World Wide Web.

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