According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability. In the United States, this figure reaches 19% (circa 56 million people). About 8.1 million Americans have difficulty seeing, while 7.6 million experienced difficulty hearing.
Besides, the first generation of internet users is slightly moving to retirement.
The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1945 and 1964 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau,) is going to cross the 65-year barrier in 2010. (...) This is a web-savvy generation and it represents one of the largest single demographics in the United States. - explained Joseph C. Dolson of Practical eCommerce.
With constantly ageing western societies, the number of internet users suffering due to vision/hearing difficulties is expected to grow, and this process is constant.
Economics & Facts
Nowadays when retail business goes online, every entrepreneur is persuaded to bear in mind the fact that the contents of their website or web application may suffer due to low accessibility. It thus can seriously jeopardize the customer experience of seniors and people with vision defects, and in a result take them right to the competitors.
Hallie Kelly of New Media Solutions explains: Accessibility is important and should be a part of your company or organization’s long-term digital presence strategy. As the web grows ever more refined and personalized, it will no longer be just other entities like the government, Google and the DOJ that expect your site to function with all possible populations in mind. Individual users of all backgrounds, abilities and experience will expect and demand that your site be clear, easy to use and accessible to all.
Hence, User Experience & web designers are obliged to follow the conditions of WCAG as the percentage of users with disabilities is consequently increasing year after year. Being available for the seniors has finally become one of the major requirements, strongly determining ROI of specific service providers.
Low accessibility doesn't only jeopardise the user experience of the website; it makes the site harder to be found. (...)Today there are approximately 25 percent more people in the United States with disabilities than a decade ago. This increase is largely due to the ageing of the baby boom generation, a trend likely to increase over the next few decades. Having a business website with section 508 compliance, and WCAG 2.0 compliance is necessary in todays age to gain higher authority and trust with Search Engines. - we can read at SEOInc blog, a leading SEO agency.
Good practices, or what shall I do next?
In order to examine the accessibility of a specific website, you can use tools like AChecker, an open source web accessibility evaluation tool. It can be used to review the availability of Web pages based on a variety international accessibility guidelines. However, it is recommended to perform UX audit to validate the website's accessibility. The auditor shall confront designs and usability of the website with the WCAG recommendations and seek compromising solutions between those aspects.
The WCAG checklist is very long and tackles all of the aspects of web design deeply. It distinguishes the four major principles:
- Perceivable - information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable - user interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Understandable - information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Robust - content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
WCAG underlines several specific cases, where the internet users witness difficulties while interacting with the content. By following the guidance, we allow ourselves to overcome most of these disability-caused difficulties. Among the best practices we can find such as following;
Use alt tags
These simple tags allow text-to-speech software to read text out loud. Alt tags can be used on images and other content that isn’t text. These are an opportunity to describe an image for someone who can’t see it.
Subtitles and transcripts
If a website includes videos, offering subtitles or transcripts is key. This ensures that those unable to hear can participate as well. Transcripts for longer audio can even be helpful for those without disabilities.
Put periods in abbreviations
Screen readers will be confused by any abbreviation without periods. Properly using periods ensures the National Basketball Association is properly pronounced as “N.B.A.” instead of “nba.”
Increase clickable range
People with mobility issues may be unable to click within a small area. Increasing click range saves users from having to play darts with their mouse.
Include an accessibility guide
One of the most important things to do is to offer users a guide describing how the site is accessible. Accessibility guides help people with disabilities understand how to use the website and access content.
Experienced UI and web designer must be aware of these (and other) rules while working on layouts and interfaces of websites. The consultancy between the designing team and product’s/service stakeholders are strongly required during the whole process of design & software development.
As the conflicts between the design concept and guiding principles might take place (and they do very often), finding a compromise is becoming the major issue. Thus supposed to encourage modern entrepreneurs to seek possibly reliable web or software development teams - in-house, or remotely by nearshoring.
The awareness of the accessibility-related practices is becoming more crucial not only for the companies aiming to be recognised as a socially responsible. With the ageing society, changing SEO algorithms and increasing percentage of users with vision difficulties, complying with the guidelines have become a crucial factor.