The web plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives. We use the internet to pay our bills, shop for products and services, access various types of content like news and entertainment, stay in touch with friends and family, perform our jobs, take online classes, and so much more.
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Therefore, it is essential that the web be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities.
What is Digital Accessibility?
Digital accessibility is the practice of designing and developing websites that are usable by everyone. The ultimate goal of digital accessibility enhancement efforts should be to provide comparable access, services, and use to the widest range of users, including people with disabilities.
Who are people with disabilities?
According to the Census Bureau, approximately 20% of the population had a disability in 2010, with more than half reporting the disability as severe. The spectrum of disabilities is broad. They can be permanent like missing a limb, temporary like having a broken arm, or situational like the inability to hear in a noisy room.
What is a Disability ?
A disability is any functional limitation with a person’s vision, hearing, movement, speech, or ability to comprehend or process information.
Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.
They range from low-tech, such as magnifying glasses or canes, to high-tech, such as an eye-tracking systems or motorized wheelchairs. No matter what the type, the purpose is the same: to provide greater independence to the user.
Creating an accessible environment improves everyone’s ability to consume information, not just those with disabilities. Things intended to benefit people with disabilities almost always winds up benefiting everyone.
For example, curb cuts, which are intended for wheelchair users to be able to get on sidewalks, help bicyclists, parents with strollers, delivery people, and a dozen other nondisabled groups.
Additionally, closed captioning, which was originally meant to benefit the Deaf community, helps people who have trouble with auditory information processing, people who like talking during films, and people trying to watch TV in noisy bars.
Similarly, working towards building a more accessible website can lead to unintended benefits such as:
- improved usability for everyone
- better search engine rankings (SEO)
- improved device compatibility
- equal access for people with disabilities
- a culture of inclusion
Thinking about accessibility from the beginning — “Accessibility First” — is similar to the approach of thinking “Mobile First” to ensure that the design works as well in a screen reader as it does on a small screen.
Behind all these checklists, rules, and regulations, there are people just trying to use your site. So make it useable, for everybody.