Website Accessibility from the User’s Perspective
People with disabilities are often excluded from participating in the digital world. By ensuring that your website is accessible, you can allow them to visit and use your site. This removes barriers and improves inclusion.
Speaking to you as a blind consumer
I’m going to be speaking to you as a blind consumer, as a blind power user of the computer, as someone who very independently works on the computer, visits probably 20 odd or more websites a day, and who orders a lot of his own materials online and supplies online. And, you know, so often, this concern of litigation comes up as the first reason we should make websites accessible. And in a way, that’s a little insulting. As a blind person, as someone who is a consumer who uses technology every day. The number one reason that I want, and maybe it’s a selfish one, but the number one reason that I want websites to be accessible is so that everyone, myself included, can access your services or your client services in a positive, meaningful, unobstructed and.
I’ll tell you first and foremost that when I visit a website that’s inaccessible or, even worse, it’s almost accessible, and you get everything in your shopping cart, and you go to check out. And there’s one part of the checkout page that isn’t.accessible, and it bounces me around at different places.
That is the most frustrating thing. And I guarantee you that’s the last time I’m going to visit that website. And I might even go on Yelp and give that company a poor review. Or I’ll go to Google Review to report that website isn’t accessible.
You are blocking out an entire group of users. We’ve said 10 to 15% of the population has some sort of disability. That is true. And if you think about losing 10 to 15% of those customers because a website isn’t accessible, that’s a lot of customers.
But let me be a little more on the positive side here and just say that when I go to a website that has any sort of accessibility that can be done by an overlay-like accessory or by hard coding. It is a breath of fresh air. I know exactly what each image depicts by looking at the ALT text that describes that image to me.
I can click on buttons. I can navigate heading, by heading, by heading — by pressing the letter H on my keyboard and jumping down the website just like you might scroll.
I have the same experience that you do now as, ss a blind user. I’m very aware of websites that are inaccessible of images that aren’t necessarily described correctly or not described at all, and it just sort of closes a curtain for me. It makes the website of information or services or products just not interesting.
So in my opinion, the more people who.we can get on board with accessibility, and excited about making their websites accessible — not just for me, but for so many.users — that is so much better.
A lot of times when we talk about web accessibility, we think about, “Oh, we need to make it accessible. We need to make our websites accessible for people who can’t see, who use these things called screen readers to navigate web pages.” That’s true. And I so appreciate that.
More than just for blind users
You know that population needing accessibility because I’m among that population. But let’s think about the broader disability cases. Let’s think about someone who has epilepsy, who — when something is flickering or pulsating on the screen — maybe that instigates seizures or a feeling of perhaps onset of a seizure.
If we can avoid that. And if we can help people with mobility disabilities, and navigate the Internet using their keyboard, maybe they have only one hand.
How exciting is that? We are literally making websites using accessible to people of all disability groups.
And I’m going to get into why accessibility. But when I talk about what it’s like to be a partner . . . but I just have to say that — the issue of litigation aside. Let’s try not to worry about litigation and let’s try to all be proactive partners wanting that inclusive side.
You know, we have one aspect of the coin, one side of the coin that is about litigation. And the other side, an absolutely tremendous side, is all about inclusion.
And I mean, who.doesn’t want their website to be accessible? It’s like asking someone, “Hey, why.don’t you put 20 stairs up to your storefront so that people with wheelchairs can’t access it and can’t shop [at your store]? Who wants to do that? By making a website accessible, you’re helping.
Accessibility helps everyone – not just the disabled.
And let me use an analogy here. In the 1960s, Ed Roberts, who is one of the founders of disability rights and disability culture and disability activism in the city of Berkeley, California. My hometown is Petaluma, which is about 40 miles north of Berkeley. So I know Berkeley well, and I spend a lot of time there. He and his ten buddies in wheelchairs called themselves the “Rolling Squads”, and they would roll down to City Hall every week and talk to the mayor and.say, “We need a way to get from the sidewalk to the street level when we’re crossing streets and back up on the sidewalk, short of having to stop at the corner and wait for people to lift us down and up, that doesn’t make sense.”
And the City said, “Oh, that’s too expensive. That’s going to be hard to do. How are we going to make this work?” You know, kind of hemming and hawing and questioning and wondering how this is going to work? Until eventually they gave in to the city of Berkeley. [They] put in curb cuts. And then other cities and counties and states started following suit.
Until in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it was mandated that everywhere in the United States, we build curb cuts. And look at it now, how many of you use wheelchair ramps or curb cuts every day when you’re pushing your shopping cart from the store to your car, when you’re pushing your young child in a stroller, when you’re riding a bike and you need to get from the curb, down to this down to the street level? The number of people that use wheelchair ramps who.are in wheelchairs is about 2% of the total population who uses wheelchair ramps on a daily basis.
Use that to think about the lens of accessibility. If you make your website accessible, yeah, you’re protecting against litigation. Yeah, you’re helping people with disabilities. But you know what? It helps everybody. It helps all your users make the experience of your website that much more inclusive, that much more exciting!
And you know what? By providing ALT text on all of your images, you’re helping them tremendously with SEO. When search engines crawl all over that website, and they see these ALT text descriptions, they notice them. And if they’re done well, it just makes it better. It improves the user experience for everybody.
So if that’s not the case for why to make your website accessible — keeping all litigation reasoning aside — I don’t know what is. Thank you.