What is website accessibility?

Web accessibility is an inclusive practice which ensures a barrier free user experience, for every person navigating the world wide web.

It’s a way of thinking that makes us stop and question whether our digital content is accessible to everyone. That means making sure that online content can be accessed, regardless of digital skills, physical abilities, literacy, language or cognitive challenges.

An image of a texthelper with a laptop, where the screen is blurred and inaccessible
An image of a person on a laptop


Why is web accessibility important?

Imagine a world where everything is within grasp, but just out of your reach. You struggle to access any piece of information, and every service you need is closed, every single day.

For some people, that’s their experience of the digital world - because barriers to digital access still exist.

As more services move online, access to information for people with disabilities becomes an increasing problem. We’re expected to do more digitally now than ever before, and there’s a risk of leaving some of the population behind. It’s with inclusive thinking that we can begin to break down barriers. That’s where web accessibility is key. 

Web accessibility matters for your business, your customers and your obligations, and here’s why...

Your business Your customers Your obligations
First impressions count. Your website is your digital presence, and every visitor should have a welcoming experience that leaves them feeling valued. An accessible website allows potential customers to navigate successfully, access your content and digest your messaging - it’s good for business.

Increases your audience reach and market share
Over 7 million people in the UK have digital access needs (needs which arise because of the effects of their disability when interacting online), and their combined spending power is around £24.8 billion. A recent survey found that 70% of this audience will leave a website if they experience barriers, taking their business elsewhere. The cost of this equates to an estimated £17.1 billion.

Enhances brand loyalty - inclusivity is appreciated!
For people with digital access needs, an inclusive brand is incredibly valued. In fact, 75% of this market would rather pay more for a product from an accessible website, than buy the same product again from one that was less accessible.

Promotes a positive brand image
Sharing in the beliefs, ideals and values of consumers is powerful in building a positive brand image. Taking thoughtful measures to increase your website’s usability for people with disabilities, means showing your consideration for digital inclusion. And that speaks volumes. Given that 62% of consumers prefer to purchase from brands that stand up for issues that matter, it makes great business sense too.

Optimises your searchability
Web accessibility and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are aligned. Websites with easier navigation help people with disabilities to access information, but it also improves bounce rate. That means people stay on your website for more than one page visit, and this improves your site’s authority with search engines. What’s more, providing things like closed captions on videos and alt tags on images not only help people with access needs, but allows search engines to discover and index the content too. 
We know that your customers are at the heart of everything you do, and as part of the experience of great customer service, isn’t it essential that they can access your business? Accessible websites are incredibly valuable for people with access needs:

Provides equal access to information
Over 10% of the UK population have digital access needs, and a further 22% lack the digital skills they need to use the internet effectively. In the same way you would make adjustments to physical accessibility on the high street, it’s important to do the same within your digital presence - so that everyone is given the chance to access what they need online.

Empowers independence
Many people use specialised devices to allow them to navigate online content independently. If your website isn’t designed with inclusivity in mind, then you're debilitating their ability to do so. Inclusive design helps us to consider many different kinds of people, and the value of doing so is independence. Statistics highlight just how important that is for people with access needs - they tell us that only 8% will ask a friend/family member for help when they come across a barrier, and only a further 8% will contact the company. 
Web accessibility makes good business sense and creates a user experience you can be proud of, but did you also know there are legal obligations to consider?

Worldwide legislation
Many countries around the world are addressing digital access issues through legislation, for example;
As such, it has never been more important that you take the necessary measures to make your websites and mobile applications more accessible. 

Not only that, it’s just the right thing to do
It’s often said that the world around us is what disables people that are differently abled. So let’s make it our mission to change this. Let’s help to make the digital world more accessible, more user friendly and more inclusive. Let’s make it a priority to empower every internet user to browse independently with a barrier-free experience. Where everyone has equal access to information, and a place where everyone feels included, important and valued.

It's all about inclusive marketing 

Having an accessible website boosts your brand's reputation, increases your market share and customer loyalty - and above all, is another step towards creating a barrier-free digital world.

If you would like to discover more about the benefits of inclusive marketing, take a look at our recorded webinar with Ceri Balston, Head of Digital at Scope.
 
An image with auditory, visual, and touch icons surrounding a laptop


What does an accessible website look like?

An accessible website is one which considers inclusive design. That means it’s designed and maintained in a way which ensures that every person can discover, access and digest content, including those using special devices and screen readers. 

To help businesses become more inclusive guidelines, such as WCAG 2.1 exist.

Understanding WCAG 2.1

WCAG, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, are part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). They’re considered the international standards for web accessibility, and outline how businesses can make their web content accessible to every type of user.

WCAG 2.1 refers to the latest version of the guidelines, and within them there are different levels of conformance - Level A, Level AA and Level AAA. Businesses should aim to comply with the standards at a Level AA at minimum, to achieve accessibility for a wide audience.

The WCAG guidelines use four principles to help guide businesses and these are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust - also known as POUR.

What are the POUR principles?

The POUR principles are used to guide businesses on how to meet the WCAG standards. They provide guidance on the functional elements of a website

An image of the letter P for perceivable

Perceivable

Every element of every website should be able to be perceived, or in other ones discovered, by every visitor. This means that content should be transformable between formats i.e. images to text, text to audio etc. so that every type of user can perceive it.  
 
An image of the letter O for operable

Operable

Web users with limited movement or tremors may use adaptive devices instead of a keyboard and mouse to access web content. That means your web content must be able to be accessed using these devices and optimising web code is key.
 
An image of the letter U for understandable

Understandable

Content that someone can access is not necessarily accessible. The language used can impact whether or not a user can understand the information, and there are various elements to be considered under this principle.
 
An image of the letter R for robust

Robust

Each individual accesses the web using technology which suits their needs and preferences. That means your website should be compatible for use across different devices and browsers.
 

Your free guides to creating an accessible website

To help you on your way to becoming more digitally inclusive with a website that's accessible, we have created two handy guides.

The first guide explores the POUR principles and outlines some actions you could take to become more compliant with accessibility standards. The second guide identifies best practice when it comes to creating and maintaining accessible online content.

Beginning your journey with the POUR principles

To help you to kick start your efforts to becoming more digitally inclusive, we've created a handy guide focused around the POUR principles. In the guide, you'll explore more about what the POUR principles mean, and discover some identifiable actions you could take to increase your website compliance.
 

An image of the first page of the POUR guide
 

Best practice for maintaining web accessibility

If you’ve made a start on making your website more accessible, that’s great! To help you keep up your good work, we’ve put together a practical guide for creating and adding online content with digital inclusion in mind. It’ll help you to outline best practice to the website owners in your business.

 


An image of the first page of the accessible information guide