Reach More People
An accessible site will reach a larger audience than an inaccessible site. But how much larger? The problem with ‘designing for the average user’ is that many users are decidedly non-average. Many sites exclude such users, usually by accident. Those users make up around a fifth of your potential audience. (Source: W3C statistics)
An accessible site has well structured code that can be interpreted by a variety of browsers, search engines and access-tools. It provides non-visual equivalents to visual elements, adds underlying navigation features (such as access-keys, skip links and relational navigation), and uses clear language. These things are all additive — they do not take away any existing functions of your site — and can be implemented without affecting the visual design.
PDA and Smartphone Users
Users who block Pop-ups
In mid 2004, an estimated 1 in 5 users blocked pop-ups (Source: Internet Marketing Center); AOL, Norton Personal Firewall and the Google toolbar have in-built popup-blocking capability. Even more recently, Microsoft's recent XP update ('service pack 2') brings pop-up blocking to the masses. If you are relying on pop-ups for any key functionality, such as your sign-in procedure, you will be losing many of your users. Accessible sites avoid calling pop-ups or new windows wherever possible, and where it is unavoidable, ensures that the user is informed that a link will open a new window.
Users with Slower Connections
Not everyone has access to broadband, and many people still haven't made the move to a 56k modem. New technologies such as Smartphones and PDAs with wireless web access also have much slower connection rates. An accessible site makes sure that users with slow connections can turn off images and still have an elegant, well designed, informative and navigable website. UK Narrowband connections (i.e. 56k or slower) still outweigh broadband connections by 2:1 (Source: Neilsen//Netratings, Jan 2003). 15% of UK users are connecting at slower than 56k (Source: Neilsen//Netratings, Jan 2003)
Google and other Search Engines
Users with Disabilities
The web changes the nature of disability. Deaf users are at little disadvantage in cyberspace, whereas colour blindness or dyslexia can be significant problems. Most accessibility issues are to do with allowing for users who have visual, language or mobility impairments. Mobility impairments include everything from rheumatism to tendonitis, tennis elbow to cerebral palsy. Language impairments can stem from dyslexia, as well as a host of social reasons — 15% of the population have reading difficulties. Visual impairments include various kinds of blindness, as well as colour blindness, and simply weak sight. If you're over forty, you've probably been frustrated already by a standard font size that's too small to read.
- 3.8 million people in the UK have arm/hand problems (Source: Department for work and pensions)
- 2 million people in the UK are registered or registerable as blind or visually impaired. (Source: RNIB surveys)
- 85% of people aged 50 and over have visual problems, especially for close reading. (Source: Association Nationale pour l'Amélioration de la Vue)
- 10% of people have some measurable degree of dyslexia (Source: The Dyslexia Handbook 1995, British Dyslexia Association)
- Web sites are legally obliged not to exclude people on the basis of disability (Source: Disability Discrimination Act 1995)
Users with disabilities are a substantial, poorly served market in the UK, who gain particular benefits from online transactions. A well designed, accessible site gives you access to this eager audience.
Next Article: Comply with the law.
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