December 26, 2016
Accessibility is absolutely necessary in today's day and age. It provides a chance for everyone, without bias, to interact with a website and obtain the information they need or want in that moment. Lack of accessibility can lead to higher bounce rates, users being unable to obtain information, and a negative effect on your bottom line. There are many cases to be made in support of accessible design.
Recently, I had to field a call from my mother, a 50 year old with almost total vision loss, who needed help filling out an online form, which was necessary for her to complete a task related to money management. The form wasn't compatible with her screen reader, so she needed my help to finish it. Though I have no problem navigating screens with my mom, people with disabilities (or other needs for accessible information) who don't have a person to assist them face some problems. The need for accessibility is higher than ever, with more than 2 billion internet ready devices existing as of 2013; a number that only grows.
Case 1: Everybody Uses Smartphones
Nearly 2/3 of adult americans use smartphones. That number is higher in youth, meaning that as the years go on, more and more adults are using smartphones. If literally every person were to try to use a non-accessible website, imagine how quickly that website will die when 2/3 of them can't access it. The fact that so much of the population's access to the internet is through their cellphone should speak enough to the reason implement accessibility in web design.
Case 2: Disabled Users
Much like my mother, disabled people need to use the internet to complete necessary tasks that they otherwise may not be able to complete. Some things like banking forms, job applications, applications for assistance, communicating with other people, and aligning transportation can not be completed without the internet. The nature of the internet provides a unique opportunity to remove certain dependencies for people. For example, a person who has a speech impediment can now clearly communicate with a health care provider through a web chat session to clearly state symptoms they are experiencing. These advantages do not come without responsibility, though.
Case 3: Limited Access To Technology
Take into consideration the fact that some people have limited access to technology. Folks in impoverished communities, people with limited access to decent education, and people dependent on public facilities to access the internet may be using older technologies to accomplish what they need to do. It's important to keep these people in mind when designing your site, not only because it's necessary to your business, but also because these users are just as important as any other user. Designing your website to work on these devices/in these softwares is necessary to the continuation of your product/service.
Case 4: Money
Yep. There, I said it. Making your thing accessible brings you more money than not. Consider this: Nearly 1 in 5 people have a disability in the US. 20% of the population. That means that 1 in 5 people accessing any given website have a disability (on average). If it costs $1 to join your site, 100 people access your site, and it isn't accessible, you'll soon be refunding $19, and be preparing to either refund more in the future and to not get that money from your users who require your website be accessible.
But it's not all about money
If money is your only motivator, web design probably isn't for you. However, I'm not here to judge. If you're reading this, you care enough, I guess. Either way, money shouldn't be your only motivator to creating accessible sites. Keep in mind that real people are on the internet. The fact that bits represent people on a computer screen may obscure personal interactions on the internet, but I promise you, real people are having real problems created by a lack of accessible websites. I want the whole world to be happy with the internet because my experience with the internet has been mostly positive and I want everybody to benefit from it's existence. My way of giving back is through accessible design. I hope you take these things into consideration and feel the same way, or at least see the need for accessible design.