Accessibility, Usability & Web Standards

You've probably heard at least one of these terms before, in relation to websites. So what's it all about, and why's everyone making such a big deal about it? Let us explain, in a simple and straight-forward way, why these related issues are so hugely important. Let's start with Web accessibility... it refers to websites being usable and accessible by people of all abilities and disabilities.

When a site isn't correctly designed and developed,
certain functionality doesn't work equally for all users.

Web accessibility encompasses all different types of disabilities, but it affects far more people than you might initially imagine. Visual disabilities include not just the blind, but people with low vision or even colour blindness. There are also people with different types of hearing disabilities, and many different physical disabilities - motor, speech, cognitive and neurological. There are also aging related disabilities - the needs of elderly people are changing over time, and their population is growing. Accessibility is an area that really cannot be overlooked. That seems obvious, right? Apparently not.

A recent test conducted by the United Nations Global Audit of Web Accessibility
found that 97% of all websites are inaccessible.

How could this be? The unfortunate reality is that most web design companies consider it to be a lower priority, and don't bother creating high quality work - they prefer to focus on the flash and pizzazz that impresses your average user. Most sites fail to do essential things like providing alternative text for all images, they rely to heavily on JavaScript for key functionality, and don't use valid code which follows web standards.