Benefits of making your website accessible to disabled users part 1: increase in reach

Written By: Trenton Moss

The Disability Discrimination Act states that service providers must not discriminate against disabled people. A website is regarded as a service and therefore falls under this law.

Some organisations are changing their websites, but many are seemingly not making the adjustments. Disabled people dont access their website, they say, so why should they care?

The statistics on the number of users who may face difficulties in using your website are however quite startling:

There are 8.6 million registered disabled people in the UK (14% of the population) (http://www.drc-gb.org/whatwedo/aboutus.asp)
One in 12 men and one in 200 women have some form of colour blindness (nine percent of the UK population) (http://www.iee.org/Policy/Areas/Health/cvdintro.cfm)
Two million UK residents have a sight problem (four percent of the population) (http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_rnib003680.hcsp#P16_1214)
There are 12 million people aged 60 or over (21% of the UK population) (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/pyramids/pages/UK.asp). At this age most people begin to experience a decrease in vision, hearing and physical and cognitive ability.

Although there is inevitably some overlap between all of the aforementioned groups, adding up these numbers provides a total of 48% of the UK population that could potentially face problems using your website. It is an extraordinarily high number.

Non-disabled people may also experience difficulties using your website. Not everyone is viewing your website on the latest version of Internet Explorer, with all the plug-ins and programs that you may require them to have for optimal access. If your website relies on images, Flash or JavaScript, and fails to provide alternatives, then a number of web users will be unable to access your website. The following examples are a common occurrence:

Users on slow connections regularly turn images off to enable a quicker download time. Some browsers, such as the text-only Lynx browser do not display images at all.
Not every user has downloaded the latest Flash program that is needed to display your site. Additionally, the download time on Flash websites often takes so long that users lose patience and don’t even wait to see the content. Just 17% of web users in the UK are connected to the Internet via broadband (www.liquidzope.com/abc/2/4currentusage/currentstatebbd/view).
JavaScript is a scripting language that can cause changes to a page, often through mouse functions, buttons, or other actions from the user. For example, pop-ups are opened using JavaScript. JavaScript is unsupported by approximately four percent of web users (http://www.thecounter.com/stats/2004/February/javas.php), either because they have turned it off to prevent pop-up adverts or because their browser does not support it.
WebTV, mobile phones, and PDAs have limited support for large images, Flash and JavaScript. You can test your website on WebTV by downloading the free viewer at http://developer.msntv.com/TOOLS/webtvvwr.asp. You can also look at how your website will look on a mobile phone with the Wapalizer, a free program available at http://www.gelon.net.

About the Author

This article was written by Trenton Moss of Webcredible (http://www.webcredible.co.uk), the user-friendly website experts. Find articles and tutorials about web usability, web accessibility, web credibility, search engine optimisation and CSS in the extensive web development resources (http://www.webcredible.co.uk/user-friendly-resources/) area of their website.

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