How Website Accessibility Affects Persons with Disabilities

Did you know that every fifth person in the US has some form of disability? Now that you know, let us ask you another question. Do you think website designers take this into consideration? The answer is not a strong YES (although it should be) or NO, it’s tucked nicely somewhere in between. Some do, and some don’t. However, there’s always hope that things are changing for the better. In the article below we’ll show you how website accessibility affects persons with disabilities and what can we do to make their web experience a little less difficult. Stay tuned to hear some info that’s unjustly not being talked about that much in the public sphere.

We’ll start out with a story

It might be best if we start out this text with a story that will, in a quick and impressionistic manner, show you what some people with disabilities have to deal with while surfing the web. Here’s Mathew, a twenty-year-old salesman with color blindness. He can’t distinguish between red and green. His disability is one of the most common in men. Anyway, he likes to do his shopping online, but there are issues that make this task hard on him. For example, some websites use red/combination to indicate sale prices, and Mathew has trouble figuring out what’s going on since both colors look brown to him. Also, as you can imagine, sometimes Mathew has trouble when online shopping for clothes. Websites that are accessible have color names written in the article description. That’s the way it should be done.

A person doing some online shopping. People with color blindness have issue when doing online shopping and that's one of the way how website accessibility affects persons with disabilities.
People with color blindness have difficulties when online shopping. It’s the website designer’s responsibility to take this into consideration.

A potential that is unrealized

Can you imagine how blind people used to read printed newspapers? Well, you kind of can’t because they couldn’t. With the arrival of the internet, that all changed. We’re not trying to say the internet made things worse for people with disabilities. Quite the contrary, the internet made their lives easier in a way. Still, this great potential stays a bit unrealized. If you’re a business owner, maybe a website manager can help you make your website more accessible.

Why are we responsible?

Let’s just say that if the internet offers many freedoms to its users (since that was the initial idea), those freedoms should be available to everyone, regardless of some personal characteristics. If we can’t provide people with disabilities with a good online experience, society as a whole is responsible for that issue. It’s like saying: Well, the web does offer a quality experience, but just for some. Why? Because we ignorantly didn’t make some websites accessible to everyone.  It’s very important website creators have this in mind when designing online content. Simply ignoring the theme of website accessibility will get us nowhere.

A common misconception

We’re not saying evil web designers deliberately create websites inaccessible to many folks with disabilities. The thing is: they do this without giving this issue, the one that this article is all about, a thought or two. There’s a common misconception about some folks with disabilities concerning their usage of web content. Some probably believe they don’t even surf the web. Although you might think this sounds a bit unreal, you’d be very surprised to know how many people just ignore this problem. Websites must change in order to function well with the devices (such as the refreshable braille display) people with disabilities use on an everyday basis.

A developer code on a computer screen. Developers need to be concerned with how website accessibility affects persons with disabilites.
Websites need to be changed in accordance with the needs of people with disabilities. A common misconception about some of them not surfing the web is wrong on so many levels.

What kind of characteristics should a website possess?

Let’s put it like this. In order to provide a good user experience for people with some form of disability, a website needs to be:

  • Operable – first and foremost. Website navigation must offer a wide variety of tools.
  • Optimized – regardless of the device the user is using to surf the web, websites need to offer a quality experience.
  • Understandable – the (visual) language of the website’s interface must be easily understandable to most folks.
  • Perceivable – websites need to provide alternative methods of perceiving their content.

These are all necessities if we want a more accessible web. Hopefully, things will go in that direction. More about that in the paragraph below.

A web designer outlining the site's interface. One of the ways how website accessibility affects persons with disabilities is that some websites have a difficult and "user-unfriendly" interface.
The website’s interface should be very easy to navigate through.

Are things changing for the better?

Even though this article was partially written in a bitter tone, there’s no need to be pessimistic. Why’s that? Well, because things are changing for the better. We’re moving towards a point where everyone can enjoy the wonderful benefits of using the web without any issues. Website/business owners are starting to see the importance of having a user-friendly site. Do you remember when Google forced companies to make sites that are accessible through mobile phones? What can we tell from that? It’s safe to assume that the software is changing in order to support the needs of its users. And because persons with difficulties are not the majority, they need to have our full support in this fight for a more user-friendly web.

A conclusion on how website accessibility affects persons with disabilities

That’s about it, folks. We showed you some of the ways how website accessibility affects persons with disabilities. Let’s do a quick walkthrough. We’ve told you the story about Mathew, a colorblind salesman, and we’ve shown you the issues he has to deal with while doing online shopping. We’ve also shown you why should everyone feel responsible if websites are not accessible to many people, just because of sheer ignorance. You may have noticed we also negated the common misconception about folks with difficulties not surfing the web. What does a website need to possess? It needs to be: operable, optimized, perceivable, and understandable in order to provide a quality user experience for everyone. Hopefully, we’ve made some people aware of the issue that isn’t really talked about that much in the public sphere.

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