Today we’re pleased to welcome Nicolas Steenhout to Small Business Owner. Nic is the guy behind Accessibility NZ, a web accessibility firm based in New Zealand but offering most of its services worldwide. Nic is passionate about web accessibility and has some great insights to share with you. Naomi
Having an accessible website means people with disabilities can interact with your site and access your content. An accessible website also reduces barriers to many people who don’t have a disability.
There is no way to know how many people with disabilities are using the web. We do know that approximately 20% of the Australian population has some condition that affects their activities of daily living, such as seeing, hearing, or moving. If 1 in 5 Australian has a significant disability, it makes sense to think that a large number of people with disabilities are using the web.
You can implement changes to your site to ensure you’re not cutting out potential customers. These changes will benefit other people as well. Accessibility techniques also apply to non-English speakers, folks who are colour-blind (about 8% of men), the elderly, and a growing number of people using smart phones.
Implementing accessibility doesn’t have to cost the earth. It generally is better to plan for accessibility at the design phase, because it is more costly to retrofit the website. But if you have an existing site, you can still make small changes to make a big difference. Is a small investment worth a potential increase in traffic between 5 and 20 percent? How much have you invested in Search Engine Optimisation already?
Search engines can’t index your content if it is delivered only through images, or Flash. Think of Google as the largest blind user on the internet. If you increase accessibility, you also make it easier for search engines to find your content.
Baby boomers are starting to turn 65. For many of them, small font size that can’t easily be increased or low colour contrast can be a barrier. Grey text on light grey background might be nice from a design point of view, but it is difficult to read.
The internet is a global market. Your audience is no longer simply local. You don’t know if English is your visitors’ native language. Complex sentence structures make it difficult for non-English speakers to understand your content. Simplifying your language will also make your content easier to understand for people with learning disabilities (about 7% of Australians have dyslexia).
Smart phones are growing in popularity. People use these devices to visit websites. Someone you see staring at an iPhone could be visiting your website. Does your site work on a Smartphone? Mobile data is still costly in Australia. Delivering content through Flash or Java may not be the best way, even if the phones can handle these technologies.
Were you already aware of web accessibility issues? What do you think you can do to reduce barriers?
Nicolas Steenhout, Head of Accessibility NZ