Why Your Website Isn't Necessarily Inclusive Just Because You've Made It Accessible
Every company wants their website to attract as much traffic and stimulate as many sales as possible. However, there are very few businesses that follow all the necessary steps to ensure their website can be used by everyone. Therefore, self-imposed barriers are formed that prevent companies from reaching their full potential and meeting their own goals and targets. The team at Recite Me are here to help businesses overcome those barriers through ensuring inclusion online.
Online accessibility is a hot topic at the moment, especially as so many web users are confined to their homes in lockdown or quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has become more important than ever that online information can be understood by everyone, and the demand for accessible and inclusive websites has never been greater – and it’s important to note here that ‘accessible’ and ‘inclusive’ are two different factors.
In previous articles, we’ve discussed why web accessibility is important to your business and the pitfalls of having a non-inclusive website from numerous perspectives, be it financial, ethical, or legal. Yet there are still some grey areas when it comes to what the key terms actually mean, what kind of changes are required, what your responsibilities are in terms of what you have to do to become accessible, and the additional factors to consider for things you should do to achieve maximum inclusion...
A couple of months ago our Recite Me sales manager, Martin Robertson, penned an article about accessibility and what the term means to him, both as a marketer and as an individual. What had become clear to Martin, is that there is a distinct gap in people’s understanding of what it means to be accessible, and the difference between offering accessibility and being inclusive.
The key factors to consider in making a website accessible are:
1. Your Website Build
Most web designers these days can coach businesses on the best practices for a build that will increase traffic and conversions through making content more accessible. There are many factors to consider, a few key examples being:
- Using a content management system that supports accessibility
- Using headings correctly to structure your content
- Including alt text for all images
- Giving descriptive names to your links
- Being mindful of colour use and colour contrasts
- Ensuring forms are designed for accessibility
- Being keyboard friendly
Abiding by these principles will make the content of your website easier to read, focus on, and understand, plus accommodate for those with vision problems, physical disabilities, and cognitive impairments.
2. Compliance with The World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
The World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide minimum standards that all business globally should adhere to. These guidelines define how content should be made more accessible to those with disabilities, and they incorporate principles for labels, headings, colour, colour contrast, text size, and navigation, among other factors. There are 3 levels of conformance:
WCAG A – The most basic level of accessibility, comprising 25 criteria that should be easy to achieve without much impact on your website design or structure.
WCAG AA - This is the level that most development teams aim to meet, and includes an additional 13 criteria compared to WCAG A. WCAG AA compliance is legally required for certain sites, and this is the level that is typically referred to when discussing ‘making a website accessible’.
WCAG AAA – The gold standard of accessibility guideline compliance, with an additional 10 criteria above WCGA AA.
3. Legal requirements
It is expected by law that businesses and service providers do not treat those with disabilities less favourably. So to avoid lawsuits companies are required to adhere to national and international standards and regulations. The ones that apply to your business will depend on where your company is based, but examples include:
- The Equality Act of 2010 (UK)
- The European Accessibility Act (Europe)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (USA)
Accessibility + Usability = Inclusion
So you’ve invested the time, energy, and money into constructing an accessible website and ensuring compliance to WCAG guidelines and any applicable laws in your region. Job done, right? Wrong! All you’ve done are the things you have to do. All of these will make your website more accessible, but won’t necessarily make it inclusive.
“The accessibility guidelines are there to guide us in making websites more accessible. But they aren’t the be-all and end-all of accessibility.”
Nicola Steenhout, a prominent speaker and consultant in the inclusion, accessibility, and disability field
This is exactly the gap in understanding that Martin identified. Accessibility compliance alone does not enable users to create a fully customisable experience. What makes a website truly inclusive is giving people as many choices as possible so they can customise your site and consume the information in a way that is personalised and tailored to their own individual needs. It is in this area of advocating accessibility, but also promoting inclusion at a much higher level, in which Recite Me sits - or as Martin now calls it more specifically, ‘Accesseyclusion’!
The Recite Me assistive toolbar promotes inclusivity by allowing those with sight loss, cognitive impairments, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, and varying linguistic needs to access your website in a way that is best suited to them. Recite Me toolbar functions include:
- Fully customisable text size, font, and spacing.
- The ability to change text colour and background colour contrasts.
- A screen mask to provide colour tinting and block visual clutter.
- Additional reading aids such as an on-screen ruler and text-only mode.
- Text-to-speech functions in 35 languages.
- A real-time translation feature catering to over 100 languages.
These functions account for singular adjustments and also more complex scenarios where consumers may require multiple adjustments for ease of use. By facilitating this, the Recite Me toolbar is able to remove barriers and allow for equal access, thus creating equal opportunities in the online world.
What our software won’t do is get you out of the work needed to make your website initially accessible, nor does it simply ‘check the box’ on compliance with guidelines and/or legal requirements. Those are your responsibilities. What Recite Me software does is take your accessible website and make it usable by all, creating a totally inclusive digital environment where users can personalise settings and consume the information in a way that suits them best.
The All-Important ‘Why’
Why be inclusive rather than simply accessible, especially if you already comply with accessibility guidelines and legislation? The simple answer is because accessibility isn’t a checklist, and the minimum standards should never be a target to reach and then disregard - especially as there are no valid reasons to exclude users, and it’s not particularly difficult to avoid doing so. A more motivating answer, however, is that the spending power of those who struggle with accessibility and inclusion online is hard to ignore. After all, why wouldn’t you want to increase your audience and boost sales:
- The global figure for lost revenue due to accessibility equates to £2.25 trillion annually.
- 86% of consumers with accessibility issues said they would spend more if there were fewer barriers
Become Inclusive Today!
Not sure whether your website is accessible and inclusive? Confused by all the jargon and criteria for compliance? Fear not! Our team at Recite Me is on hand to guide you through the process and help you to create a barrier-free website for your users. Simply contact us for more information or to find out about scheduling a demonstration. For a limited period, we are even offering a free accessible and inclusive landing page for any business, allowing you to share COVID-19 related messages with your staff and customers during these difficult times.