Web accessibility requires an appropriate mindset, and some misconceptions can prevent businesses from making effective decisions. One of the most common myths: If you’ve made a website accessible for people who are blind, it’s accessible for everyone. After all, accessibility is about providing accommodations for people with vision disabilities — isn’t it?
Not quite. This misconception comes from a good place; people with visual impairments certainly deserve to experience the internet on their own terms, and sites that take appropriate steps to accommodate those users are ahead of the curve. But web accessibility isn’t about accommodating any single group, and improvements should benefit everyone who accesses the site.
The process involves recognizing that real web users take different approaches to access and interact with content. For instance, some people use screen readers (software that reads onscreen text) regularly, and many of those people are blind. However, screen readers can be useful for people with a variety of other disabilities, as well as people who simply prefer to listen.
And screen readers are only one of the many assistive technologies that people use to interact with the web. Some people navigate using only their keyboards; others prefer touchscreens. Some users may use a keyboard and mouse, but they may prefer sites with consistent navigation elements. Like anyone, people who are are or hard of hearing might love video content or prefer to read articles — but the option for more people to enjoy all a video has to offer always requires that the creators provide captions.
An accessible website should address all of its users' needs. Thinking of accessibility as "improving the web experience for people who are blind" can create unnecessary challenges that make the process more difficult and less rewarding.
Accessibility provides benefits for people with and without disabilities
The simple fact is that no two people access digital content in the exact same way. Planning for digital accessibility is about giving users options and improving the overall experience.
Here are some helpful points to keep in mind:
People with disabilities make up a significant portion of the world’s population
Per the World Health Organization, about 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. That includes people with hearing, vision, mobility, speech, and cognitive disabilities, all of whom may use the internet in different ways. No website is truly 100 percent accessible for every user, but improvements will expand a business’s audience considerably.
A disability doesn’t define the way that a person uses the internet
This point can seem intimidating when considering the vast spectrum of ways that people with and without disabilities might use the internet. However, when a web experience is aligned with the WCAG’s POUR foundational principles (content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust), most users will benefit — regardless of their browsing habits, adaptive technologies, and other factors.
Accessible websites work better for everyone
Accessibility isn’t a simple checklist, and committing to the mindset requires some work. However, the benefits aren’t limited to people with vision disabilities — or even people with disabilities in general.
When a website is easily navigable with clear content and plenty of options for interaction, people can use it more effectively. That translates to major benefits for organizations that commit to an accessible approach.