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Benefits of web accessibility

Society depends on the web to communicate. In some cases, technology can make the world more accessible to individuals with sensory impairments or disabilities. But in some cases, it can raise new barriers. Site developers must be vigilant to ensure that web content is accessible to the widest audience possible.

Web Accessibility adds value

Web accessibility benefits everyone. It's a key component of universal design.

1. It provides a better user experience for all visitors on all devices.

As environments change, people experience temporary artificial disabilities every day.

Devices used to browse the web introduce the possibility for disabilities.

Environmental factors that decrease usability:
 
Disability Simulation Solution
Impared vision Use a smartphone or laptop outside on a bright day. Make text easier to read by using higher contrast ratios.
Tremors / Arthritis Trying to browse the web on your smartphone while walking. Make buttons and navigation touch targets larger.
Hearing loss Trying to watch a video in a loud room. Put captions on videos.

On a day-to-day basis, even hour-by-hour, a person's abilities and disabilities change on a spectrum. Abilities range from totally blind, legally blind, color blind, need glasses, and a few lucky people have 20/20 vision.

2. It improves search engine optimization (SEO)

The W3C Link Purpose document describes how to properly label URLs: "The purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context..." In short, links like this are not accessible:

  • "More"
  • "Read more"
  • "Learn more"
  • "Click here"

People who use screen readers browse a page by looking at the headlines and links. As they tab through the site it reads those links to them. If the computer reads "More" the user asks, "More what?" There is no context to the link's purpose. Suggestions for better links:

  • "More news"
  • "Read full article"
  • "Learn more about open source"
  • "Click here to read more about Linux containers"

What does this have to do with SEO? Keywords in links are more valuable than plain text. For example, "Learn More About Linux containers" just added two keywords to the content. Bad link text is a missed SEO opportunity.

3. It increases the audience for your website by making it more inclusive

People prefer websites they can use. Half of people over the age of 40 start to experience presbyopia, which is normal age-related loss of the near-focusing ability that leads to the need for reading glasses or bifocals. Over 48 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. Over 7 million Americans are blind or have low vision. By making a website accessible it increases your audience to include those people. 

4. It is morally the right thing to do.

The Web is an increasingly important resource in many aspects of life: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, and more. It is essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities.

5. It helps avoid costly and embarrassing lawsuits

Being on the wrong side of the law is far more expensive than dealing with it proactively.