In today’s world, technology is a necessity. Not only has it become a crucial tool for productivity and learning at the workplace and schools, it also provides access to social services, utilities, and other important services.
However, the usability of technology varies from one person to another. For many disabled users, this disparity is often abundantly clear.
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Users with disability
With 15% of the world's population, or 1 billion, experiencing some form of disability, it’s likely that you know one or more people in this category. Since more than half (54%) of these adults tend to go online, that’s an audience of almost half a billion people.
Many of these users have been using the Internet and connected services for years, but now their device preferences are trending strongly to mobile. Consider that in 2009, only 12% of users reported using a mobile screen reader, compared to 88% eight years later.
Failing to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Yet, many digital platforms still do not conform with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). According to research conducted by Tenon, on average 279 A level and 106 AA level accessibility errors can be found on a page.
Tenon also found that only 0.02% of pages are free from WCAG conformance errors when parsed through an automated accessibility testing tool. This figure can be compounded when you consider that automated accessibility tools fail to discover all issues, some of which can only be identified by expert accessibility testers and users with accessibility requirements.
Lawsuits and litigation
Although there is now more awareness about the issues related to accessibility, many websites and digital services remain inaccessible for disabled users. This has led to a rise of accessibility lawsuits and litigation by as much as 181% in the US from 2017 to 2018.
In Australia, a notable example occurred in 2000 with the landmark accessibility case brought against the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). In this instance, a visually impaired user was unable to access scores and medal tallies on the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic games website. He was awarded $20,000 in damages and SOCOG was also ordered to remediate their website in consideration of accessibility requirements.
Top 4 digital accessibility statistics and trends infographic
Not all web accessibility-related issues end up in lawsuits. An even bigger consequence of inaccessibility is the damage this is doing to your reputation, and the opportunities it is costing your company.
By adopting accessible design, you’re not only ‘doing the right thing’ and mitigating the risk of lawsuits, you’re also building a strong following of vocal brand advocates. If your website is accessible and your competitors aren’t, then you will become the automatic pick for a lot of users with accessibility requirements.
Market leaders including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook have clear and publicly promoted accessibility initiatives in place, helping to raise awareness and encourage adoption of inclusive practices across other digital industries.
For a growing number of organisations in the public sector, accessibility is already a mandatory requirement. Governments are fast updating their digital accessibility laws, most recently in the UK, Europe, and Canada.
In countries such as Australia, the 2000 SOCOG case was a contributing factor that led to the adoption of WCAG for all public sector and government websites moving forward.
The benefits of accessible design extend beyond users with permanent disability. It can benefit users with a temporary injury, such as post-LASIK surgery. It can also benefit users with a situational impairment, such as someone watching a video with captions while travelling on public transport.
Accessible websites also perform well in SEO. Practices such as meaningful image alt tags, unique and descriptive page titles, and video transcriptions boost sites up in Google search results.
The way forward
That’s why optimising websites and digital services for accessibility and inclusive user experience matters now. Not only do solutions need to be globalised, users need to be empowered to access and personalise technology in a way that benefits them.
Between providing accessibility to your current audience and thinking about your future one, delivering on the promise of inclusivity should be a priority now. Talk to us today to find out how we can help you navigate the challenges of accessibility and better service your users’ needs.