For most people, surfing the web is an activity taken for granted. For people with disabilities however, the Internet can be an inhospitable place. Shawn Lawton Henry leads the World Wide Web Consortium’s education and outreach activities promoting web accessibility for people with disabilities and in this interview I picked her brain about why accessibility is important for the Internet at large. Turns out it’s not just individuals with disabilities that can benefit from a more accessible website, it’s businesses as well.
Define web accessibility and why it’s important.
Web accessibility is designing the Web so that people can use it, specifically people with disabilities. In our Introduction to Web Accessibility, we say: Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.
Because of the role the Web plays in society, it’s vital that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities. When the Web is accessible, many people with disabilities can communicate, interact, and create online much more easily than in the physical world.
W3C WAI has an updated Accessibility page that introduces the what, why, where, and how of Web accessibility. I encourage everyone to read what it says about how the impact of disabilities can be radically changed for people using the Web when websites, Web technologies, and Web tools are properly designed. And, when websites, Web technologies, or Web tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the Web.
Web accessibility is important not only for individuals and for society; also for governments and for businesses.
How can businesses benefit from becoming more accessible on the web?
An accessible website is often the easiest way to do business with many people with disabilities, for example, people who cannot read print material, people who have difficulty getting to a physical store, and others. Also, what you do for accessibility overlaps with other best practices such as mobile Web design, usability, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Accessible websites also work better for older users with age-related accessibility needs. “Seniors” are becoming an even more important customer base for most organizations, as the percentage of older users is increasing significantly.
We have a whole resource on Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization. It also mentions ...