What is digital accessibility?
Digital accessibility is the process of making digital products (websites, mobile apps and other digital tools and technologies) accessible to everyone. It is about providing all users access to the same information, regardless of the impairments they may have.
According to W3C (the organization who manages web standards), their goal for web accessibility is:
... to lead the Web to its full potential to be accessible, enabling people with disabilities to participate equally on the Web. The Web must be accessible to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Indeed, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, as a basic human right.
The goal is a web that everyone can participate in, since access to information and communication is, according to the UN, a basic human right.
A really simple way to understand accessibility is to think of “alt text on” images. These are how people who can’t see navigate around a website and understand a picture is there. By providing relevant alt tags to all your images, you do a small part in making the web more accessible to people who can’t see.
So why digital accessibility is important? We are living in a digital world where more and more products and services are becoming digital. Organizations that neglect accessibility need to understand that they are already losing customers and will continue to lose them. Plus, good usability improves the digital experience for all users (not only those with health conditions and disabilities).
Examples of Digital Accessibility Transformations
So what do these changes actually mean to organizations looking to be fully accessible?
Here are two examples of web accessibility transformation
The State of Georgia’s web transformation
About 8% of Georgia’s under 65 population is disabled, not to mention the fact that its website was increasingly the way residents engaged with government.
It needed to be accessible.
So they partnered with both academic and private organizations to deliver a revamped web experience that met the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (Level AA) outlined by the W3C.
They reviewed and fixed the design themes used by the Georgia governments' various agencies to make them more accessible. Specifically, they:
- Increased contrast and font legibility
- Improved semantic markup, to make it easier for blind people and others using screen readers, improve search function, and make the entire site more SEO friendly for everyone.
- Improved keyboard-only navigation.
These changes made the site easier to use for everyone, made it easier to find what people were looking for, and made critical content available to people who were previously under-served.
Image Source: Digital Accessibility Georgia
Legal & General Group (L&G)
This is an older example, but tenet they used in 2006 still apply today and do an excellent job of illustrating how accessibility needs can dovetail with business objectives.
In 2006, L&G embarked on a web accessibility project with the goal of passing a usability test where the participants were users with disabilities. To reach that objective, L&G redesigned their website, with specific attention being paid to usability testing, usability audit/heuristic analysis, and a deep understanding of the needs of the existing underserved client base.
The outcome was sudden and dramatic. In addition to a site that passed accessibility standards and drove accessibility complaints down to zero, the improved UX, reduced load times, and better schemas drove positive business metrics across the board:
- 25% more organic traffic
- Better position in SERPs
- 75% better load times
- 100% ROI achieved within 12 months.
Digital Products for All
Accessibility is about making your digital experiences available to any user and ensuring that the information and communication that we all benefit from truly benefits everyone. Of course, there’s no one size fits all. There are multiple approaches to accessibility, from updating content to improving user flows to technically upgrading your website and apps to have reduced running requirements.
It’s an opportunity to improve your website and service for people who need it most, in a way that all your users benefit from.