Digital / 3 minute read

What is web accessibility and why it's important for your website

Written by Matthew Hayward

19 April 2023

As Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, says, “The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone, regardless of disability, is an essential aspect.” To ensure everyone can access your incredible content in a way that makes sense to them, web creators must take accessibility into account.

Essentially, that means asking whether everyone can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with web pages. If the answer is no, there’s work still to be done.

Who benefits from accessible web pages?

Accessibility is often linked to disability, but it’s not just people with disabilities that benefit from accessible websites. Building accessible features into your website undoubtedly makes it easier for people with visual, neurological, cognitive, auditory and motor impairments to engage with content, but it also offers a better experience for all users.

Features such as alternative text for images and clear, concise headings and links make your website easier to navigate for everyone. Building in options for interaction, like video captions or audio transcripts, also helps people with situational limitations. Yet more features address the ever-growing range of devices on which users might access your content. Accessible websites function just as well on mobile phones, smart watches and smart TVs as they do on desktop. 

Because of all this, making your website accessible can expand your potential audience and help retain individual users that may have previously dropped out of your user journey when it became too challenging to continue. Website creators can therefore count themselves among the beneficiaries of accessible sites as not only can this approach help your audience grow, but it also helps you stand out from the competition.

Why does accessibility matter?

There’s no question that accessibility is important to a huge proportion of web users and, ultimately, accessibility should matter to web creators because it matters to users. But there are lots more reasons why web accessibility is vital for businesses. 

First, organisations are legally obliged to make their services accessible to everyone. Thanks to the Equality Act 2010, organisations have a responsibility to ensure that all visitors to their site can access all content, regardless of ability. Accommodations are made for the scope of work needed to bring older sites up to scratch, but to keep on the right side of the law your website should be fully accessible. Therefore, keeping focus on accessibility in those early days of website creation is beneficial as making your website accessible from day one less expensive than retrofitting later. Plus, it makes it far less likely you’ll need to spend out on legal costs.

As accessibility touches on almost every element of a website’s creation, it naturally overlaps with other best practices. An accessible website is also one that’s mobile-friendly, supports multi-modal interaction and is optimised for search engines. As a result, accessible websites can have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, increased audience reach, and demonstrate corporate social responsibility (CSR). That’s all great news for your business.

Where to start with web accessibility.

Making your entire website completely accessible in one foul swoop may be the best way forward for you, but for most it’s just not realistic or practical. Implementing significant changes to how your website functions, as well as the content it features, takes both time and money and that may not be available in one solid block. But don’t worry, starting the process and committing to change are the most important first steps.

  • Increasing website accessibility begins with educating your people. By making anyone who contributes to your website more aware of accessibility, and how it impacts the choices they make, you’ll see gradual but impactful change across your site.

  • For a more immediate shift, first assess how accessible your website already is. This is how you’ll identify places where you can deploy fast fixes like adding appropriate tags and alternative text, providing transcripts and captions for video content and making site maps readily available.

If you’re ready to dive in and bring your entire website up to date with the latest guidelines, it needn’t be a mammoth task for your internal teams. We’re here to help! Our expert team of digital natives will scour your site and share everything that needs to change to open it up to an even broader audience. We can put all those recommendations into action too if you’d like, ensuring your site is up to standard in terms of accessibility without sacrificing what makes it work for your organisation.

Eager to see your business’ digital accessibility improve? Reach out to our expert team and together we’ll make sure your website is open to all.