In discussions with business owners and digital agencies, I often get asked the same questions or the same issues are raised about website accessibility and this week I wanted to dispel some ‘myths’:
- Website Accessibility is expensive
- Only users with impairments or disabilities will benefit from a more accessible website
- Being more accessible limits the design impact
- I can use a plugin to make my website accessible
- If it’s not a legal requirement why should I bother?
#1 Website Accessibility is expensive
What the person who raises this is actually saying is they can’t see how to quantify the return on investment by making their website more accessible and they see it more as a cost.
A more accessible site leads to more users, which leads to more conversions and a higher ROI. All other factors being equal, if there are two sites selling exactly the same services/products, the more accessible one is likely to have a higher conversion rate. This is because a more accessible site is more user-friendly for all users, not just those with impairments or disabilities (see #2 below).
If you need a bit more of a nudge on this point, search engines like Google rank user-friendly websites higher – this means more organic traffic, more visitors and more conversions.
#2 Only users with impairments or disabilities will benefit from a more accessible website
By its very nature when a site is made more accessible it becomes more user friendly, for everyone.
Consider a visitor to your site who needs glasses but doesn’t yet have them (I was this person 2 weeks ago – for years I refused to get my eyesight checked but finally relented two weeks ago and as of a week ago I’m seeing everything in super definition!) – by making changes to the colour scheme and zing of fonts on the site, even I would have been able to use your site before I got spectacles.
Consider a person who has broken the wrist on their dominant hand – normally they would have been fine using your website but now they can’t use their mouse and so they use their keyboard to navigate your site – unsuccessfully. Their disability is only temporary but for that time they can’t use your website. If they find a competitor’s website more friendly to their current circumstance are they likely to come back to you once their wrist has mended? I’ll let you answer that.
#3 Being more accessible limits the design impact
Many people I speak to feel that their website can’t be visually stunning if accessibility is applied; this isn’t true – a talented web designer can work within the guidelines and still create an aesthetically pleasing website. And remember, you don’t use your website your clients and customers do – if the overall experience is pleasing they’re not likely to care that the visual impact of the website didn’t knock their socks off.
#4 I can use a plugin to make my website accessible
Plugins are pieces of code that add functionality to a website. Platforms like WordPress use them extensively to add features inexpensively and many plugins are just amazing. Unfortunately, accessibility plugins, also known as overlays, are nowhere near amazing. Some of the more popular overlays are actually known to make a website less accessible after being added!
Accessibility doesn’t just need to be applied to the visuals of a site (colours, images, fonts etc) – the architecture of a web page also needs to be considered and every website is different – trying to apply a one-size-fits-all solution is not going to work.
#5 If it’s not a legal requirement why should I bother?
The legal aspect of website accessibility is still a little grey in the UK. As more and more cases are brought against websites with accessibility issues, the legal requirements will become much clearer.
As of September 2020 all public sector websites in the UK were legally required to meet AA accessibility standards (see my article Website Accessibility – Conformance Levels & Success Criteria) and it’s only a matter of time before the private sector will need to follow suit.
However, putting the legal angle aside, making your website more accessible is more of a moral issue – wouldn’t it feel great if you knew that your website doesn’t discriminate against any visitors and is inclusive to all?