Web Accessibility Benefits
A website optimised for accessibility will not only benefit your organisation, it will benefit everyone.
Let's take a closer look at the many web accessibility benefits:
Increased reach to disabled and special needs users
To get an idea of how many people may face difficulties accessing the content and information on your website, take a look at these statistics on disabled and special needs users in, for instance, the UK:
- 8.6 million people are registered disabled - 14% of the population (source: DRC)
- 2 million people have a sight problem - 4% of the population (source: RNIB)
- 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women suffer from some form of colour blindness - 9% of the population (source: Institute of Electrical Engineers)
- 12 million people are aged 60 or over - 21% of the population (source: UK Government)
- 2 million people with learning difficulties - 4% of the population (source: Foundation for People with Learning Difficulties)
- 9 million people have impaired hearing from partial hearing to profound deafness - 15% of the population (source: The Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People)
That's more than half the UK population. I guess you can appreciate why making your website accessible to everyone is so important. Fail to make it accessible will mean loss in potential business. If your competitors sites are not accessible, then here's your chance to gain a distinct competitive advantage and add real value to the global community.
Disabled and special needs users have spending power
Most people run a business to make money and their website is an important tool for their business activities.
Disabled people in the UK have a disposable income of £50 billion per year (source: Employers Forum on Disability). People aged over 60 years old have incredible spending power. In fact, they own a significant amount of the disposable income in the UK.
By making your website accessible to disabled and older people, you will more than likely benefit through increased business.
Increased reach to different technologies used for accessing the Internet
By using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for your website's layout you will make it work well on different technologies used for accessing the Internet. These include Handhelds, PDAs, WebTV, Lynx browser, and Screenreaders. The code for these style sheets can be placed in external CSS documents, thus separating the content from the presentation (layout).
You can make an additional CSS document for handheld devices (mobiles and PDAs) which will be called up in place of the regular (screen, projection) CSS document. This is not possible with a table-based layout.
Improved web page download times
By using CSS for your site's layout, you will see significant improvements in your web page download times. With CSS you will achieve faster download speeds than with tables.
- CSS needs less code than tables.
- Browsers read through tables twice, once to work out their structure and once to establish the nature of their content, before displaying their contents.
- Tables do not completely appear until the entire table is downloaded.
- All code to do with the layout can be placed in an external CSS document which will be called up just once and then stored in the users computer. A table layout is stored in each HTML document and must be loaded up every time a new page downloads.
- To aid positioning, tables encourage the use of spacer images.
- By using CSS you can control the order items download on the screen.
Using CSS instead of tables for layout, a web site can reduce its file sizes by up to 50%. This means decreased bandwidth costs. For high traffic sites, this will equal significant savings.
By using CSS for layout and valid markup (HTML or XHTML), your website will work well at different screen sizes such as 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, and 1152x864. You won't see any horizontal scrolling that you can get with tabular layouts.
Your site will work well on all browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Maxthon, Safari, Netscape, Konqueror, JAWS screen reader, and on PDAs, and screen sizes ranging from 600px to 1600px in width.
Positive PR effect
You can get your accessible website listed in directories that promote sites optimised for accessibility. You can place logos that tell users that you are using valid markup (HTML or XHTML), valid CSS, and that the site meets W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for either priority 1, 2, or 3 levels.
Higher search engine rankings
Search engines like CSS-based websites and are likely to place them higher in search engine rankings because:
- Important content can be placed at the top of the HTML document (content before navigation).
Many of the techniques involved in optimising a website for special needs users will help it's search engine rankings. In fact, there are many areas of overlap. The more accessible your site is, the better search engine rankings it will achieve.
By using CSS for style and layout, you only have to adjust one style sheet to make adjustments right across your website. Table-based layouts require each web page to be adjusted. So CSS is less time-consuming. Imagine if you had a 100 page site. It would take a long time to adjust if it used tables, but would take no time at all using CSS.
Web page print friendly
When a user wishes to print a web page an alternative CSS document can be called up. This document can specify that only the content and logo are to appear on the print out, with the navigation and formatting made to disappear.
Meet web accessibility legal requirements
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) states a website must be accessible to disabled people. This law has been in place since 1999. If your site is not accessible you could be sued. By taking steps to acquire an accessible site this will not happen. You will need to bring your site up to at least WCAG level 1 compliance, although with all the benefits of web accessibility, it would seem sensible to bring your site up to WCAG level 2 or even level 3.
Web accessibility techniques
Help disabled and special needs users access the content and information on your website easily with these web accessibility techniques.