Written by Krishna Sabaratnam
Each year, on the third Thursday of May, we mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an event dedicated to highlighting digital accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, these aspects are frequently overlooked during the creation and advancement stages of many digital products and services, a lapse that may result in exclusion and discrimination.
The reality of this issue becomes clearer when we look at data provided by the Pew Research Center. While nearly 81% of adults in the United States without a disability own a desktop or laptop, only 62% of those living with a disability have such access. In another study conducted by WebAIM, an alarming discovery was made: the homepages of the top one million websites harboured over 49 million unique accessibility errors. This equates to an average of 50 errors per homepage.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day serves to enlighten individuals, businesses, and organizations about the critical role of accessible design principles in reaching a wider audience. Indeed, where companies forego the development of accessible designs for solely financial reasons, this is not only short-sighted – it is also unlawful. Companies that proactively implement accessible design are likely to see a range of prospective benefits.
Making Accessibility the Goal
To foster the development of accessible digital products and services, it is essential for businesses to prioritize the provision of education, training, and resources. This will arm designers and engineers with the necessary skills and confidence to be disability inclusive. By doing this, businesses can spearhead innovation and improve the online user experience for all user groups.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways accessible design can help you reach a wider audience.
The goal of any business is to maximize and exceed profitability. By purposefully addressing the needs of people living with disabilities, your business is making a clear statement of inclusivity. The decision is not only ethically sound but also opens a door to a market segment that has long craved inclusion and offers untapped potential.
Better Web Ranking & Recognition:
When websites are inaccessible to individuals with disabilities, they can also pose challenges for search engines in terms of crawling, indexing, and aligning with search algorithms. By harmonizing accessible design with SEO strategies, you can unlock improved user engagement and expanded reach. This strategic approach could translate into increased organic traffic, fortifying your brand’s reputation and customer loyalty by adopting a consumer-focused lens.
Captivating User Experience:
The curb-cut effect phenomenon arises when designs aimed at enhancing accessibility for individuals with disabilities inadvertently extend their benefits to a significantly broader range of users. Though the term is widely attached to the universal design movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, it is also relevant to today’s movements for accessibility and inclusion. A great example of the curb-cut effect can be found in the innovation of mobile text messaging. Initially developed as a means of communication for the deaf community, text messages have evolved into a pivotal means of communication for almost everyone around the world. This universality underscores the potential of accessible design to address specific needs but also benefit a wide variety of users.
By placing emphasis on accessibility, you not only enhance inclusivity but also optimize digital products and services for all consumer groups. As we reflect on the lasting impact of digital accessibility, one thing becomes clear – it’s evident that the demand for more accessible design is an unstoppable force shaping the future of the digital landscape. By embracing this wave of change, we lay the foundation for a future where accessibility is the bedrock of online experience: a future where the digital world empowers and offers equal opportunities to individuals, regardless of their circumstances.