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Benefits of making your website accessible to disabled users part 2: the business case

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 comes under this law.

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

There are, however, two very good reasons as to why businesses should start taking these issues seriously:

1.An accessible website will make you more money
2.An accessible website will save you money

There are seven reasons for this being applicable:

1. Your website will be easier to manage
An accessible website separates the content (the words and images that we see on the screen) and presentation (the way that these words and images are laid out) of each page. Each web page has an HTML (HyperText Markup Language) document, which contains the words and images for that page (the content), and calls up a CSS (Cascading StyleSheets) document that includes the presentation information this CSS document is shared by all the pages on the website. To adjust the layout of your website, you only have to make changes in one file, saving considerable time (and therefore money).

2. Your website will be compatible with new browsing technologies
In the near future, the use of PDAs, mobile phones and in-car browsers will all regularly be used to access the Internet. The people making use of these new technologies are generally high-income individuals. In order to reach this lucrative target, you will need a website that can work on these machines. To test your website, try accessing it on the Wapalizer, a free program available at http://www.gelon.net, which shows how your site will look on a mobile phone.

3. Your website will appear higher in the search engines
By making your website more accessible to web users, you are also making it more accessible to search engines. Search engines cannot usually understand images, JavaScript, Flash, audio and video content. By providing alternative content to each of these programs, search engines will have a better understanding of the purpose of your website. The more confident a search engine is of what your website is about, all other things being equal, the higher it will place your website in the search rankings.

4. You will not have to incur legal fees
The RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) and the DRC (Disability Rights Commission) have been exerting pressure on companies and the government to make their websites accessible. Indeed, the DRC is currently investigating 1,000 websites for accessibility (http://www.drc-gb.org/annualreview/foreword/index.asp#internet). If your organisations website is on this list then you can expect to be hearing from them soon.

5. The download time of your website will be significantly improved
Just 17% of web users are connected to the Internet via broadband (www.liquidzope.com/abc/2/4currentusage/currentstatebbd/view). You can be sure that if your website takes much longer than ten seconds to download then many of your site visitors will be clicking away and you will lose their custom.

6. The usability of your website will be enhanced
There is a certain amount of overlap between web accessibility and web usability. It has been shown that a usability redesign increases the sales/conversion rate of a website by 100% (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030107.html).

7. You will gain good publicity
Make your website accessible to everyone and you can tell the world about it.

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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