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19th December 2016 in Web Development

Pursuing Professionalism in Web Accessibility

Paul Wong-Gibbs

By Paul Wong-Gibbs

Pursuing Professionalism in Web Accessibility

There’s been a growing amount of talk about making websites more useable to people with disabilities in recent weeks. We at Indigo Tree have been increasingly aware of our role in providing access to the web to a wider range of people. Here’s how it’s already helping our clients increase their reach.

It’s not just people with disabilities who might use assistive technology (like screen readers) to access information on the Web – a much wider range of individuals is involved. That’s also one of the reasons we want to focus on accessible websites in the coming year.

Accessibility is for Everyone

Web Accessibility is the practice of designing and developing websites that can be used by people who might be using assistive technology to access the information on websites, or who may be limited in some other way. For example, they may not be able to use a mouse, or be colourblind.

But it also includes those of our audiences who have a “temporary disability” because of a sports injury, a slip trip or fall, or perhaps one too many beverages at the local the night before. It also includes people of a … maturing … age whose eyes aren’t what they used to be (that includes the author of this blog post!).

That’s why we’re keen to stick to definitions like “accessibility” and “inclusive design” – terms which infer the striking positives of the situation – that if you improve a website for these individuals, it’s everyone who benefits, not just certain groups. We never know when we might forget our glasses and suddenly the grey-on-white text becomes a challenge to read.

I started using the web at a really young age and I couldn’t imagine growing up not using all those tools I use every day. That’s why accessibility is so important.

Indigo Tree Developer David Hewitt

The Manifesto

We at Indigo Tree feel that there hasn’t been enough movement among our peers to ensure what we produce is accessible. For many agencies, Web Accessibility isn’t a consideration. We wish to lead the way among our contemporaries and show them what can become second-nature to every developer, and that without compromising the design or functionality of our sites.

We’ve actually already been doing this. Our custom-built in-house theme already includes things like alt tags on all images by default, and uses tab indexing to make sure people who use a keyboard to navigate around a website can do so easily.

But we want to raise the game and aim for WCAG “AA” as a standard practice where that is practical to do so. This isn’t something that’s going to cost our customers extra either: it’s something that we do because we’re professionals who are committed to excellence.

Benefits to Our Customers

Some government agencies are already required to make their websites accessible. But there are other benefits that you might not know about …

1) SEO

Search engines are blind to images without alt tags, so this content often doesn’t get indexed. We think in the near future, this might be the next thing that search engines start to identify as a ranking metric.

2) Improved Conversion Opportunities

Because we make your websites accessibile, you are able to reach a wider audience. As we’ve already mentioned, this isn’t only permanently disabled individuals, but those with a short-term condition that affects their ability.

3) Improved Goodwill

It only takes one bad experience for a potential customer to be discouraged forever. Making things accessible will in all probability lead to increased goodwill and make your products and services more appealing to a wider range of individuals, even if at the moment they’re not quite ready to make a commitment to you.

You’re addressing wider and wider audiences and bringing more and more people in

wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg

The Year of Accessibility

We’re pleased to echo the sentiments of Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg in saying that in 2017 we’ll be focusing on accessibility and security as two of the key things that will really help put our customers on the map.

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