Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

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Why Web Accessibility?

There are several reasons why your website needs to be accessible. The two main reasons are commercial and legal. I would also suggest that it’s the right thing to do. I will expand on these reasons on this page. You may also wish to see an article I wrote for Dave Shea’s Mezzoblue a few years ago: Accessiblity: Build it, and They Will Come.

In short

  1. Make more money!
  2. It might be the law
  3. It’s the right thing to do!

Commercial Reasons for an Accessible Website

Simply put, if your site is accessible, you are likely to make more money!

People with disabilities have disposable income and shop. Many people with disabilities prefer to shop online as an accessible website allows them to avoid the hassles of travelling to often less than accessible retail outlets. If the site is not accessible, they will go somewhere else.

Friends and families of people with disabilities often prefer to patronise businesses that are accessible.

There are not, to our knowledge, hard numbers to tell you how much more business you will see with an accessible website. But there is approximately 20% of the population that has a disability in most Western countries. Obviously not all of them are online, and not all of those who are online have a disability that is impacted by a website with accessibility barriers. Still, there is a significant number of people who are more likely to spend their money with you if they can use your website.

Not Just for People With Disabilities

Even if your target market is not people with disabilities, you don’t know which of your visitors have disabilities. Beyond that, increases in accessibility generaly increase a site’s usability. It’s not just people with disabilities that benefit from increased usability and accessibility. And if your site is easier to use for everyone, your revenue is likely to increase.

But our Website Does Not Sell Products

Whether you sell products or services, or offer free services, it is to your advantage, as a barrier-free website is likely to increase traffic, which is (arguably) something most website desire.

There is a growing number of countries where legislation requires websites to be accessible. Some specify compliance with WCAG, others merely talk about ensuring a website’s accessibility. Other countries have created their own compliance guidelines, such as §508 (of the US Rehabilitation Act).

Other countries do not have specific accessibility legislation, but have Human Rights declarations that call for no discrimination. While no test case has been brought forward yet, we can foresee a lawsuit lodged on the basis of discrimination. I certainly wouldn’t want my claim to fame to be the first business to lose a lawsuit on that basis…

It is worth noting that there have been some high profile lawsuits, notably the case of the “Sydney Olympics” (See Joe Clark’s Reader’s guide to the complaint), and the case of “Target”.

Web developers are also at risk. It is not unusual in “bricks & mortar” accessibility related lawsuit to name the building owner, the building developers and the architects in the suit. It is only a question of time before that happens with websites.

Businesses and organisations are becoming increasingly aware of their social and ethical responsibilities. Ensuring a barrier-free environment is the right thing to do.