Making your website accessible is about making sure it can be used by as many people as possible.  
 
This means adapting your content so that it can be viewed by the largest number of people, including those who may have difficulties with vision, motor skills, cognitive impairments and deafness or impaired hearing. 
It is just good business sense to make sure that your website can be viewed and used by as many people as possible. Later on in this post we will look at ways that every business can make their website more accessible, and the positive reasons for doing so.  
 
However, accessibility is also a requirement by law for some public institutions. And it is this kind of accessibility that we are going to look at first. 
 

Why accessibility is important 

At least one in five people in the UK may have a long-term illness, impairment or disability and it is very important that every effort is made to make these people feel included in what you do – especially if your website contains important public information. 
 
When people are using a public sector app or website, it’s essential that they work for everyone. In fact, the people that need them the most are often those that find them the most difficult to use. That’s why websites with a focus on accessibility are so important. However, over the last few years it has become apparent that most public sector websites have accessibility issues. In fact, as many as four in ten local council websites fail accessibility tests. 
 
The reasons they do so are most commonly not having sites that are responsive and can be used on mobiles, using text or PDFs that are too difficult to read, poor colour contrast and font options, and sites that cannot be navigated using a keyboard. 
 

Accessibility regulations 

It was issues such as these that led the government to introduce new regulatory guidelines back in September 2018. These said that public sector websites needed to be more accessible by making their sites more ‘perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.’ The full name of the accessibility regulations is the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. 
 
These regulations mean that all providers must meet these guidelines and make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people. This could be providing a larger format text, audio versions or other modifications. 
 
Websites or mobile apps meet the newer legal requirements if they: 
 
Comply with the international WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard 
Publish an accessibility statement that explains how accessible your website or mobile app is 
 
The guidelines apply to all public sector websites and those of some charities and other organisations. There are some exemptions which you can find by looking here
 
The deadlines for making these changes depended on whether the website was new or existing. For new websites, the changes needed to be made by 23rd September 2019. However, existing websites were given longer to make the required changes. However, this deadline is also fast approaching, on 23rd September 2020. 
 
It may not be required for the whole website to meet these guidelines if you can prove this is a disproportionate burden, however you need to demonstrate that at least some effort has been made to become more accessible. 
 
You also need to remember that you are responsible for making the changes to your website even if you have outsourced your web design to another company or person. 
 
If you can’t afford to make all the required changes at once, then this would constitute a disproportionate burden and you may be allowed more time to do so. But you need to clarify this with a legal advisor. Even if you cannot make the changes, you need to have a clear plan in place for the changes you will make at the first available opportunity. 
 

Why does accessibility matter? 

Of course, the vast majority of websites are not part of the public sector or do not fall under the remit of these guidelines. So, there is no immediate rush to get things done. However, accessibility should not just be a matter of legal obligation. Making your site easily accessible to as many people as possible is also good business sense. 
 
A 2019 UK survey found that more than four million people abandoned retail websites because of the accessibility barriers they encountered. That lost business, the ‘Click-Away Pound’ as it can be known, amounted to £17.1 billion. That represents a huge amount of potential custom that can be tapped into. 
 
As we mentioned above, more than one in five of us in the UK has some kind of long-term condition. That means that about 20% of your potential market may have issues with accessibility. Again, those are big numbers. 
 

How to improve accessibility 

Making your site more accessible doesn’t have to involve a huge redesign. There are a number of simple steps you can take to make your site easier to use for all your potential customers: 
 
Reduce the amount of content. Websites are often guilty of having way too much content just because it is easy and free to put it up there. Only include content that adds value and break it down into smaller chunks where possible. That means using subheadings, lists, videos, images and more. 
 
Don’t try and be too clever or write in complicated language. The best websites always keep things simple. Make sure that legibility is good, avoiding poor contrast and having text that is too small to read. Stay away from distracting graphics and images as these can be off-putting, and make sure any links you include are relevant and working. 
 
If you do have any forms on your website, then make sure they are clear and easy to use, and ensure any sales funnels are not too complicated. 
 
Include alt text for any important images on your website, and provide transcripts or captions for any audio or video content. This ensures visitors using screen readers or those with hearing impairments are able to digest all the relevant information. 
 
Choose colours and patterns wisely, as some combinations can be difficult for people with dementia or learning disabilities to interpret, and remember that people with colour-blindness will see your content very differently. 
 
By making a few simple changes to your site you may be able to boost your target market and see real results in sales. 
 
Here at it’seeze, we can help you to make your website more accessible for all users, including those with disabilities. We provide hassle-free web design for businesses and organisations of all sizes – including councils and charities. Our websites are stylish, secure and accessibility-ready, so get in touch with our team to find out more about how we can help your business win more customers and provide a great website experience for everyone. 
 
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