The need for a greater Website accessibility
Life today has become comparatively easier than before for the differently abled in the world. They are getting separate and special access at public places and in transport, thanks to the governments and local bodies. But the virtual space hasn’t adapted that much for these people.
With an increased number of people getting access to and using the Internet, it has become imperative to make websites accessible to everyone. The word ‘Accessibility’ means that every human in the world has the ability to access something regardless of their condition. Website accessibility means eliminating online issues and barriers that people with disabilities encounter and giving them equal and easy access to the functionality and information of the websites.
Why Web accessibility is required?
It stems from the fact that about 15% of the world’s population has some or the other disability. That makes well over 100 crore people out of a population of 7 billion! 1/3rd people out of those exhibit serious issues in functioning. That is not all, at some point, everyone gets briefly disabled whether they get injured on hands, view the websites in bright sunlight etc.
The web is designed fundamentally to work for everyone irrespective of their location, language, software, hardware, age, and abilities. Hence, website accessibility incorporates all the disabilities that are a hindrance to the basic access of the web. They are: Cognitive, Auditory, Physical, Neurological, Visual and Speech. Furthermore, these disabilities are divided into three levels or categories:
Permanent disability. E.g. Deaf, Blind, etc.
Temporary disability. Something which will get over with time, for e.g. eye infection, fingers or hand injury, etc.
Situational or Conditional disability. Anyone will find themselves in a particular surrounding or situation where they are helpless. E.g. being in a noisy place, slow internet connection, etc.
The World Wide Web Compliance (W3C) have stated four guiding principles to follow on which the standards and checklist are based. They are abbreviated as P.O.U.R.:
Perceivable- The User Interface and Information must be presented in such a way to the users that they can perceive it in every condition.
Operable- Users must be able to use and operate on the interface in any condition.
Understandable- The information must be easily understandable for every user.
Robust- Even after technologies and user agents advance or evolve, the content must still be accessible to users.
They have also given a checklist of 12 points to follow for all websites, in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) ver. 2.0. It is updated every few months, with the ver. 2.1 recommended and accepted in June 2018.
The importance of the Internet has increased and will continue to increase in the fields of employment, commerce, education, governance, recreation, healthcare, entertainment etc. Thus, people with any disability should not feel left out of any activity. An accessible web will help them contribute to society more actively. Web accessibility is also required by law in many places.
Accessibility of the website also helps from the business point of view. It overlaps with other best practices like device independence, usability, mobile web design, SEO, multi-modal interaction etc. It is also a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). As stated above, there is 1 disabled person out of every 7. So if an e-commerce website is not made according to the 12 point guidelines of WCAG 2.0; for every 700 website visitors, they are losing 100 potential customers; and hence, that much revenue!
On the other hand, websites that have accessibility for all will get more site traffic, credibility, and business; besides helping to make the world a better place to live for the differently abled. Therefore, it is recommended to keep web accessibility in mind when building websites.