Creating a buzz around accessibility

In a world where everything is a priority, how can you create a buzz around accessibility and get it baked into the process for all projects?

Different people require different approaches to understand the benefits. Some are driven by the moral arguments, whereas others may need harder-hitting messages.

Below are my top tips for getting people on board. These have all been tried-and-tested, but I’d love to hear how successful they are for you and whether you have any more tips.

We’ve all been impaired

It is estimated that 4 in 5 UK adults do not have a permanent impairment. I have found that the majority of people therefore find it difficult to relate at times.

Have you ever watched a video in a public place, but couldn’t turn your sound on to avoid disturbing others? How about using phone in the park with the sun glaring on your screen? Have you ever used your smart assistant in a noisy environment?

With good design, such as subtitles or high colour contrast, you might not have noticed the impairment. With poor design, you might have become disabled.

Examples of permanent, temporary and situational disabilities

Without exception, everybody has experienced these types of temporary or situational impairments in their daily lives. It is therefore easier for people to relate to temporary or situational impairments, rather than permanent ones which fewer people have experienced first hand.

It’s the right thing to do

The web is intended for everybody to be able to access and contribute to it.

People with some types of impairments may rely on the internet more than others, whether that’s for everyday chores, finding information or socialising. It has the power to revolutionise the lives of millions of people all over the world.

Technology doesn’t just make things easier for people with disabilities. It makes things possible.

Veronica Lewis, Microsoft Accessibility Blog

Be more like Adam Savage

If you’ve ever tried to drive accessibility, you might have been met with some resistance by people with misconceptions around what accessibility is or how it is beneficial.

Rather than seeing what happens if you use a mobile phone at a petrol station, or seeing how hard it is to find a needle in a haystack, let’s bust some common myths around accessibility.

“Our customers haven’t complained about accessibility”

According to Click-Away Pound, only 10% of users report accessibility issues. The other 90% might just become frustrated and leave your site. This is thought to equate to £12 million of lost revenue each year.

“Accessible websites are ugly and boring”

Some accessible websites are dull, however so are many accessible ones. It is absolutely possible to create a beautiful, media-rich, interactive, engaging and accessible website. WCAG guidelines don’t prohibit images, videos or other engaging content. The only thing they say is to make sure that the content is still accessible for users who are not able to, or choose not to, use them.

“Accessibility is only useful for a tiny number of users”

Approximately 1 in 5 UK adults have a permanent impairment. This rises to 1 in 2 UK adults at state retirement age. On top of this, millions experience temporary or situational impairments every day.

Whilst accessible websites benefit users with permanent, temporary and situational impairments, they also have positive SEO gains. Clearer structure, succinct navigation, video transcripts, explanatory link text and other improvements will help to boost SEO rankings.

“Fixing accessibility is expensive”

If baked into the process from the start, it adds little to no cost to a project. It is no different than including any other project requirements.

Money talks

Profit is the lifeblood for businesses which allows them to grow. For many leaders, profit is therefore the most important factor when prioritising projects.

According to the charity Purple, the “Purple Pound” is worth £249 billion to the UK economy each year:

Their collective spending power — the Purple Pound – is worth £249 billion to the UK economy.

However, this potential is not being fully realised. There are still real (and perceived) barriers that make it harder for disabled people to find work, spend money online and in store, and enjoy a drink or meal out.

Purple

It’s the law

The Equality Act 2010 requires everybody providing a service in the private, public or voluntary sector to “take such steps as it is reasonable to ensure an equal experience for people with disabilities as compared to those without”.

The problem is that the law don’t state what it “reasonable”. It is up to a judge to decide whether the steps you took to make your website accessible were “reasonable”. The government will soon require their services to be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant and they will be required to prove their compliance.

A few unnamed companies have faced legal action by RNIB, however these cases were settled before court. Many believe that there will eventually be a high-profile case against a named company to solidify UK web accessibility law though.

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