Why Website Accessibility Matters

Website accessibility isn’t something nice to have with your website. It’s absolutely a requirement these days. If people who use the keyboard or screen reader or something similar can’t use your website, then you have a bad website. So let’s talk accessibility. Because everyone — everyone — should be able to access your website.

Hey there, and welcome to Website Tip Friday.

This is a new series where I’m going to try out where we sort of informally talk about different topics that have to do with the website. This will cover anything from design to development to content and really so much more.

And I’ll go ahead and say that this is for you as well. So just go ahead and leave your suggestions down in comments below.

But really this is just kind of an informal period where we where we just kind of talk, and hopefully you learn a little bit more about something to do with your website.

So with that out of the way, let’s move on to today’s topic, and really it’s going to be this month’s topic: web accessibility.

You sort of know kind of already what accessibility is already. It’s the handicapped spots in front of a business and the ramps to get from those spots up to the front door. And it’s, you know, also the ramps that are next to stairs and elevators.

But what is web accessibility? Because that’s where things get a little bit tricky for businesses.

According to the World Wide Web Consortium, web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.

In short, it’s making sure people with disabilities can access and use websites whether they use a mouse, keyboard, screen reader or other technology.

And according to Interactive Accessibility, around 57 million Americans have some sort of disability. And really, because of that, they use and access websites in different ways than, you know, abled people can.

I work at the UNT Health Science Center here in Fort Worth, Texas. And because we are a state institution, there are certain accessibility guidelines that we have to follow on our website. And the same usually goes for the government as well.

But where things get a little bit trickier is where businesses come into all of this. There are some people who think the Americans with Disabilities Act covers website accessibility, and obviously there are some businesses who don’t think that.

There is sort of an ever-growing number of lawsuits over ADA compliance with business websites. And really, they’re not without their merit.

The biggest example right now is a lawsuit with Domino’s and their website. The case basically comes down to a blind customer not being able to order pizza off of Domino’s website. Apparently, recently Domino’s underwent a redesign with their website, and unfortunately it wasn’t accessible for people with disabilities.

They couldn’t order pizza, and also Domino’s apparently offers online only offers. And apparently Domino’s doesn’t want to fix their website for whatever reason, so obviously the next thing is to file a lawsuit.

Currently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Guillermo Robles, the blind person who couldn’t order the pizza. However, Domino’s, as you might expect, is appealing that to the Supreme Court.

And really, it’s just frustrating. Why would you alienate a good chunk of your potential customer base? I just really don’t get that.

And what’s worse is that they don’t really seem to care to fix it, and would rather just fight this lawsuit.

And that’s what makes this really frustrating to me. By continuing to fight this lawsuit, it shows that they really don’t care.

It’s almost like they’re willing to alienate good chunk of their potential customer base just because they want their website to look good.

Because here’s a newsflash: if people can’t use your website, if everybody can’t use your website, then it doesn’t matter how good the website is. Websites should be inclusive for all people, and sorry, that’s not being politically correct, it’s just being human.

Don’t do what Domino’s is doing. Strive for your business to be better than that, because really it needs to be better than that.

Like I said before, if you have a brick and mortar store, there are already accessibility requirements that you have to have. I mean you have to have handicapped spots, and you have to have ramps where you have stairs.

It makes perfect sense that you would have to have the same for your website.

So take the time to make sure your website is accessible for everybody. If you’re in the process of building a new website, make sure the developer understands that, and that you think about these accessibility things before there’s any code or even designs laid down. And you know, if you’re currently happy with your website, take a look at any of the potential accessibility issues on it.
I’ve listed a number of free tools I’ve used on my website to check for those issues. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need to figure out where you can get help to fix them.

I put a link down below to a Twitter list I created of web accessibility experts that you can look to for advice or maybe even help.

And honestly, accessibility isn’t just something that’s in the code that’s hidden that you don’t think you can touch. Really there are a lot of things that you can control that you can control on the page that are related to accessibility.

It’s having alternative text for your images. It’s using the correct heading structure. It’s making sure you have the right color contrast and those types of things.

And if you’re confused by some of those, really don’t worry and don’t stress out about this. That’s what this series is kind of for for the next month. We’re going to go over these topics, and I’m going to show you how to fix them. Because really, they’re easier than you might think.

But just know this: accessibility matters. If you have a website, everyone — everyone — should be able to use it.

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