If you are not familiar with the term “Accessibility” when it comes to your website, don’t be surprised. General unawareness of this subject matter is an unfortunate reality, even though the Website Accessibility Initiative was formed some 20 years ago.

As defined by the Web Accessibility InitiativeWebsite Accessibility:

…means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.

In practice, Website Accessibility means removing barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using or interacting with a website. When websites are designed and developed correctly, all users have equal access to information and functionality.

Some hard facts

Generally speaking, you should expect that 10-20% of your website traffic comes from users with some sort of disability. While the percentages can vary based on the demographic makeup of your audience, determining the exact percentage is extremely difficult to determine with any certainty. The bottom line is ignoring Website Accessibility potentially means excluding or inhibiting 10-20% of your audience from using your website.

Did you know 56.7 million Americans have some type of disability? Of this, an estimated 38.3 million (12.6%) have a severe disability. To further break this down:

  • 19.9 million have difficulty lifting or grasping, possibly impacting mouse or keyboard usage, slowing response time
  • 15.2 million have cognitive or mental impairment, making it hard to remember or focus on information
  • 8.1 million have vision impairment that may require the use of assistive technologies to announce textual content to users
  • Across the world, Men (8%), Women (0.5%) are color blind and rely on appropriate ratios of color contrast on a daily basis
  • 7.6 million have hearing impairment and may rely on captioning to perceive information

Some current Website Accessibility trends and patterns:

  • There are nearly 70 automatically detectable issues on each page of the web
  • Color contrast issues are the most common
  • 28% of all images are missing their `alt` attribute (likely making them inaccessible to assistive technologies)
  • 15% of ‘alt’ attribute values are not descriptive enough (i.e. – “graphic” or “image”)
  • 81% of buttons on the web have no useful text for their accessible name

User Experiences from Students

For perspective, below is a short video of user experiences from 3 students, detailing the barriers encountered while using various websites.

Awareness

On a daily basis, I encounter people that are unaware of what Website Accessibility is and why it is so important. If Accessibility is neglected, assume that 20% of your audience, in some form or another, will likely be excluded from interacting or gaining the information they need from your website. The hope here is to start, continue or enhance the discussion of Website Accessibility.

Thursday, May 18th 2017, marked the sixth Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The goal of GAAD is awareness, to get people talking, thinking, and learning about Accessibility. Set aside a portion of any day and see for yourself how some people use the web day in and day out.