Digital Accessibility: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

1 June 2021

The internet is an integral aspect of today’s social fabric. It keeps us connected. It gets us from A to B. It entertains, educates and so much more. Most of us would be lost without it – and we mean that in both a literal and figurative sense (thank God for Google Maps). Because we now live so much of our daily lives online, it is important that nobody misses out on the value the internet offers.  Here’s where digital accessibility comes in.

Digital accessibility is the practice of ensuring that websites, mobile applications and other technologies can be easily navigated and understood by everybody, regardless of any disabilities or impairments. It is all about providing each user with the same information, and making various modifications to do so. As the conversation around online inclusivity becomes more widespread, many assistive technologies are being developed and deployed across websites so that more users can interact with their content. Though many developers still overlook accessibility in favour of visual impact and aesthetics, this is a close-minded strategy. Here’s why digital accessibility should always be a priority.

Why is digital accessibility important?

From a business standpoint, neglecting those who have disabilities or impairments is essentially driving away a huge segment of prospective customers. In Australia alone, 1 out of 5 people (around 4.4 million in total), are incapacitated in some way. It simply does not make sense to ignore this huge demographic, and this approach will ultimately limit your potential.  

Incorporating accessible features makes websites compliant with several laws surrounding equal opportunities for disabled persons. The Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 has required several establishments, including websites, to observe policies that can benefit disabled persons, essentially compelling them to facilitate the transaction process for all users. Websites that are not accessible could be subjected to hefty fines, as stipulated in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

An accessible website can boost your brand image, demonstrating your concern for those who may struggle to use the internet. Position yourself as a business with a conscience and make sure you include design elements to accommodate people with impairments. Over time, this will build goodwill and foster lasting customer relationships.

Tips for a more accessible website

Though you may think that making your website accessible requires a full re-design, this is not the case. There are plenty of quick and easy changes you can undertake to make your website a more inclusive place. Image alt text is used to describe the content of an image using a few words. This allows people to understand its context if they are relying on screen readers to browse the site. For example, an image of clouds and the sun could be given the following alt text “clouds covering the sun”.

Keyboard-friendly content is another simple way to accommodate more users. This means that people can use your website using only the keyboard, without the aid of a mouse since many assistive technologies depend on keyboard-only navigation. Test out your site by using the tab key instead of the mouse. In theory, this should operate in the same way, allowing you to jump between content on the page. 

Sequential heading structure adds a logical flow to your site that makes it easy to understand. Make sure your headings are properly coded and arranged in a hierarchical order. Typically, each page should have one H1 – the main title. Organise what follows according to their themes and relative importance using H2 subheadings as well as H3s and H4s if and when necessary. This helps screen readers to interpret text more accurately, too.

Even something as basic as hyperlinks facilitate the browsing process. This way, if people need more information on a given topic, they can simply click through without having to generate a separate search query. Just make sure your hyperlinked text is bolded, coloured or underlined so that it stands out.  

Ready to get accessible? Make your site an inclusive and welcoming place with the help of the seasoned web developers at Elephant in the Boardroom. We have the talent, smarts and experience to transform your website, building your brand online and fast-tracking your growth.  We also offer a suite of advanced digital marketing services, from social media management to graphic design. Start making a real impact today and contact us at (03) 7018 7620 or visit our website at www.elephantintheboardroom.com.au.