Business Case: Accessible websites

Accessible websites are designed to serve all users, regardless of their browser type, screen size, or physical ability.

After relaunching our own website in February 2004 we now ensure that all our web improvement projects produce accessible, usable and navigable websites and intranets for our clients that are still visually engaging and aesthetically pleasing.

Why worry about web accessibility?

There are at least five good reasons to make websites more accessible:

  1. Under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, UK organisations are required to take 'reasonable steps' to ensure their online services are accessible to people with disabilities. However, according to a formal investigation report by the DRC and the Web Accessibility Study 2004, most UK Web sites break accessibility laws.
  2. According to ONS figures approximately 15% of the UK's population are disabled in some way so there is a huge market there for businesses to tap into, and, since accessible websites are a rarity, contented users will express positive sentiments to their friends and relatives.
  3. Accessible websites tend to be quick to load, browser-independent, easy to maintain and future-proof so they are a good investment.
  4. Search engine spiders find it easier to process compliant, accessible websites so they rank them more highly than less well designed sites with similar content - see the Digital Web Magazine article on Optimizing your Chances with Accessibility and the Web Accessibility and Search Engine Optimisation paper from bigmouthmedia for details.
  5. Businesses have a moral obligation to be socially inclusive, and their reputations will benefit if they are seen to adhere to ethical principles.

You can find out more about web accessibility on the Royal National Institute for the Blind's website at www.rnib.org.uk/accessibility/.

The need for web accessibility experts

Despite the abundance of recommendations and guidelines, which are freely available, most web designers still fail to use the tried-and-tested tools and techniques that make websites accessible. Since it is a website's owner who is culpable if their site is inaccessible, it is their responsibility to employ web designers with human-centered design skills and a proven knowledge of best-practice methods for programming websites.

Our Managing Director, Mark Williams has been a web usability consultant since 1998 and is a key member of the BWDMA's working group for accessibility and usability, which is aiming to devise practical initiatives to remedy social exclusion from the Internet.

"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."

Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web.

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