A study released by computing and disability charity, AbilityNet, found that people with disabilities favour the most accessible websites when using the Internet. A poll of over 100 people with disabilities showed that the disabled community use the Internet for information, shopping, banking and leisure, just like everyone else. However, most disabled users will spend their time and money only on businesses that cater to their needs with more accessible sites.
Demographics of UK’s Disabled Audience
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that there are 610 million disabled persons worldwide. The European Parliament estimates that there are 37 million disabled individuals in the EU, over 50% of whom are of working age. 10.3 million UK residents declare that they have a limiting long-term illness. These numbers are significant enough to make anyone realise the potential audience they could be ignoring by creating websites that are hard to access.
Disability Discrimination Act
The Disability Discrimination Act ascerts that website owners have had a legal duty, since October 1999, to ensure that all services provided via their website are accessible to disabled people. Any company not complying with the accessibility guidelines could potentially open itself up to legislation and discrimination lawsuits from disabled customers.
Disability Rights Commission: User-friendly websites for all
The disability rights commission launched guidance yesterday on how to launch a website that is user friendly. The document, Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 78, was developed by the British Standards Institution (BSI) and sponsored by the Disability Rights Commission.
- Details on the PAS 78 can be found at http://www.bsi-global.com/PAS78
Common Accessibility Problems
Typical accessibility problems encountered by most disabled users include:
- Text size on some sites is hard-coded so that it cannot be easily enlarged
- Text labels attached to images (Alt text attribute) are often uninformative or absent
- Pictures of text are often used instead of actual text
- Adverts and features made up of moving images distract visitors with a cognitive impairment
- Interactive presentations such as ‘Flash Movies’ present access problems for visitors who cannot use a mouse, are vision impaired or who use speech output or voice recognition software
Accessible websites are also search engine friendly, which means that by ensuring that your website is accessibility compliant you not only increase your potential audience but also optimise your website for higher search engine rankings.
If your website presents any of the above problems for users with disabilities, you are most likely alienating a very large customer segment.