Breaking Down Online Barriers for People with Access Needs
On December 3rd we will be celebrating International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD) 2020. The disability market is considered to be the largest minority group in the world, as current data suggests that at least 15% of the world population are living with some sort of disability. This accounts for over a billion people in total!
Our goal on IDPD is to spread awareness of the need for better support online for people with disabilities. Providing equal access opportunities for all is particularly important this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the population online more than ever before. Most of us will have struggled with the realities of COVID-19 in one way or another, but for those who face accessibility barriers online it has been a particularly challenging time, and the lives and mental well-being of those with disabilities have been disproportionately affected.
Not All Disabilities Are Visible
The theme for IDPD 2020 is ‘Not all Disabilities are Visible’, and this is something that we are incredibly aware of here at Recite Me. All too often, the word ‘disabled’ is used solely to describe physical and mobility issues, whereas, in reality, the term covers so much more than that. Particularly when discussing online access, disabilities can also include:
Visual impairments - It is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people worldwide have a vision impairment.
Learning difficulties - Dyslexia alone affects at least 15% of the population, and a further 5% suffer from attention disorders like ADHD.
Literacy and language barriers - Around 1% of the population in developed nations have issues with basic reading and writing, and up to 1 in every 5 households speaks a language other than English at home.
Neurological disorders – Approximately 450 million people are living with a mental or neurological condition. Examples include epilepsy, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
Developmental disorders – Around one in every hundred people are on the autism spectrum.
Temporary disabilities – Millions of new cases of chronic pain, fatigue, and brain injuries occur each year as a result of accidental injury.
Individuals with one or more of these issues often struggle to access information on websites, as they may not be able to use a mouse, read the text properly, focus on the information they need, or find their way around a busy screen. International guidelines do exist to reduce these barriers, but unfortunately, accessibility principles are often overlooked.
Web Accessibility for Disabled Users in 2020
Each year, a comprehensive analysis of the top 1 million home pages is completed by WebAIM, a nonprofit web accessibility organisation based at Utah State University in America. The program also studies hundreds of thousands of interior website pages to identify trends and areas for improvement. Sadly, the state of the internet from a disabled users’ perspective still leaves much to be desired, as 2020 WebAIM statistics show that:
98.1% of home pages have World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliance failures. This figure is up from 97.8% in the 2019 study.
The number of web accessibility errors overall increased by 2.1% between 2019 and 2020.
Home page complexity has increased significantly, meaning users with disabilities can expect to encounter accessibility errors on 1 in every 14 home page elements.
It’s not all bad news though, as data does show small improvements in some areas. However, there are still far too many companies out there making web accessibility much harder than it needs to be. Often, significant improvements can be made by making simple adjustments such as:
Formatting pages properly using descending H tags
Ensuring alternative text is present on all images
Adjusting colour contrasts
Making sure there are no empty links or buttons
According to WebAIM, addressing these concepts alone would significantly improve accessibility across the world wide web. Besides, not only are these good principles for best practice in general, they also impact SEO results in a positive way. So there is no incentive for companies not to make their websites more accessible. In fact, improving web accessibility by removing barriers should only strengthen the brand value, not to mention make the business more profitable.
Did You Know…?
The spending power of the disabled market is over £2.25 trillion annually!
How is Recite Me Making a Difference?
At Recite Me, we believe in accessibility for all and an inclusive online world. This starts by creating awareness on an individual and organisational level by helping others to understand the opportunities presented by inclusion. By guiding our clients through the same process, we hope we can all make a positive difference together.
This year we have found ourselves building and developing more and more relationships in the charity and public service sectors. This is important to us, as making sure information and services are available to everyone during the global pandemic is of utmost importance.
"We help people in financial need, so accessibility is essential. The Trust is delighted that with the support of Recite Me, we now provide barrier-free access to our online application forms. Enabling people with a range of accessibility issues, including visual impairments, dyslexia, colour blindness and other forms of neurodiversity, as well as those who need to use alternative languages to apply "
Jessica Taplin, CEO of British Gas Energy Trust
We now support over 100 charitable organisations, local councils, utility providers, and transport companies. In the last 12 months, we have helped over 1.5 million people to read and understand content online. Our assistive toolbar is installed on well over 2000 websites worldwide, allowing site visitors to strip away barriers and create a 100% customisable experience. Our accessibility and language support options include text to speech functionality in 35 languages, on-page translation in 100 languages, fully adjustable styling features, reading aids, and the ability to change the look and layout of the page to suit individual preferences.
During these uncertain times, Recite Me is on hand to support businesses and help ensure that all online information related to COVID-19 is accessible and inclusive for everyone. To that end, we are offering to host a free accessible and inclusive landing page for organisations to share their Coronavirus messages with all of their staff and customers.
“When information is vital, it is vital that information is accessible and inclusive for all.”
Ross Linnett, Recite Me CEO and Founder
Is Your Business Striving for Digital Inclusion?
There is no better time than on International Day of People with Disabilities for companies and brands around the globe to make positive changes and ensure their website and web content is fully accessible to everyone. We recommend all organisations take the following steps:
Make sure the build of your website is up to date in terms of best practices for accessibility.
Develop a thorough understanding of the WCAG and ensure any required updates are completed for compliance.
Look into assistive technology solutions like the Recite Me toolbar to bridge the gap between accessibility and usability, creating an inclusive online experience for all users.