What is ‘digital accessibility’ and why is it important?

Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, stated that “The power of the Web is in it’s universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” The term ‘digital accessibility’ is essentially the act of putting this statement into practice. it is ensuring that a website, mobile app, or electronic document can be read, navigated and understood by everyone and anyone regardless of whether they have a sensory, physical, or cognitive disability.

Despite the fact that there are many pieces of assistive technology both in the forms of hardware and software that are designed to ensure that those with a disability can use digital services and products as easily as everyone else, poor digital design can reduce the effectiveness of these tools. Contrary to popular belief creating digitally accessible products and services doesn’t have to be complicated and expensive. Design elements that meet the needs of users with disabilities are very similar to the suggested best practices of digital design in general. Products that adapt easily in general will adapt more easily to those with alternate accessibility needs, as well as better facilitating the necessary assistive technology, meaning they are easier to use for everyone.

So why is it so important?

Reduced costs in the long term 

It takes a lot more time and effort to fix a problem than prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is true in the case of building digital accessibility into one’s products from the start, rather than attempting to put it on to the end once the product is built. Even little changes such as using a bigger font size or a higher contrast font and background colour can help people in a big way. Incorporating these changes from the start means that one can optimise the results, whilst minimising the expenditure needed to get there.

Search engines reward it 

Many search engines such as Google or Safari are increasingly focusing on accessible websites when considering where they should place them in the search results. They are rewarding accessible websites by placing them in a higher search position. This can then lead to increased traffic to your website as it is more visible, increasing the number of potential conversions and thus profit.

Reduces bounce 

Making sure your website is accessible also makes sure that it is as user friendly as possible. One of the most sure fire ways to see potential customers bounce from your site rather than make the purchase is if your website is complicated and difficult to navigate. Making it accessible also makes it more user friendly, which means that it is easier to navigate for everyone, not just those who may have a disability. This will result in less people bouncing and more conversions.