The DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) states that service providers must not discriminate against disabled people. A website is regarded as a service and therefore falls under this law, and as such must be made accessible to everyone.
Some organisations are making accessibility improvements to their websites, but many are seemingly not making the accessibility adjustments. Disabled people don't access their website, they say, so why should they care?
There are, however, two very good reasons as to why businesses should start taking these issues seriously:
1. An accessible website will make you more money
2. An accessible website will save you money
There are seven explanations for this:
1. Your website will be easier to manage
An accessible website separates the content (the words and images that we see on the screen) and presentation (the way that these words and images are laid out) of each page. Each web page has an HTML document that contains the words and images for that page (the content), and calls up a CSS document that includes the presentation information - this CSS document is shared by all the pages on the website.
To adjust the layout of your website, you only have to make changes in the CSS file, saving considerable time (and therefore money).
2. Your website will be compatible with new browsing technologies
In the near future, the use of PDAs, mobile phones and in-car browsers will all regularly be used to access the Internet. The people making use of these new technologies are generally high-income individuals. In order to reach this lucrative target, you'll need a website that is accessible to these machines. To test your website, try using it with the Wapalizer (http://www.gelon.net), which shows how your site will look on a mobile phone.
3. Your website will appear higher in the search engines
The more confident a search engine is of your website's purpose, all other things being equal, the higher it'll place your website in the search rankings.
4. You won't have to incur legal fees
The RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) and the DRC (Disability Rights Commission) have been exerting pressure on companies and the government to make their websites accessible. Indeed, the DRC has now published their findings from their accessibility investigation of 1000 websites. They've warned firms that they'll face legal action and the threat of unlimited compensation payments if they fail to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities.
5. The download time of your website will be significantly improved
Accessible websites generally download quicker than websites with poor accessibility. Just 25% of web users in the UK are connected to the Internet via broadband (source: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/intc0504.pdf). You can be sure that if your website takes much longer than ten seconds to download then many of your site visitors will be clicking away and you'll lose their custom.
6. The usability of your website will be enhanced
There is a certain amount of overlap between web accessibility and web usability. It's been shown that a usability redesign increases the sales/conversion rate of a website by 100% (source: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030107.html).
7. You'll gain good publicity
Make your website accessible to everyone and you can tell the world about it.
This article was written by Trenton Moss. He's crazy about web usability and accessibility - so crazy that he went and started his own web usability and accessibility consultancy ( Webcredible - http://www.webcredible.co.uk ) to help make the Internet a better place for everyone. They offer fantastic accessibility & CSS support packages, which you can read all about at http://www.webcredible.co.uk/support .