The single most important thing to understand is that people use web sites in very different ways.
This doesn't just mean disabled people using special equipment but everyone - regardless of whether you might think of them as having a "special need".
Different Strokes For Different Folks
People use different web browsers, different operating systems and may move around web sites in different ways. Every visitor to a web page has a specific set of needs. Web designers and site owners cannot assume that everyone will use a web site in exactly the same way.
People with different needs can experience additional problems when using some sites because of barriers within the web pages. Perhaps the page is too wide for their screen? Or links can only be used with a mouse when they use a keyboard to move around?
All of these barriers reduce access to information needed for education or employment; limit access to civic, or community activities; make it impossible to shop online etc. etc.
Increasing accessiblity reduces barriers on web pages. Accessible web sites present information in a way that people can access effectively - regardless of their needs.
The percentage of people with disabilities in the general population is around 10% to 20%. For many people in this group, web barriers are a serious problem. Evidence also suggests that many people, without any obvious disability, find some sites disorientating, confusing and just plain impossible to use.
Accessible web sites are less likely to suffer from these problems and are more likely to attract larger numbers of visitors than their inaccessible counterparts. Whether you feel that web accessibility is a moral issue or not doesn't matter. It's down to hard facts.
If you want a successful popular site, make it accessible.
It's not a big deal and it won't cost you any more - in time or money. Accessible sites don't need look very different. They just need to be to be flexible and transform gracefully into useful pages no matter what technology is being used to view them.
Clear Commercial Benefits
Accessible sites tend to use technologies that work with a larger range of interfaces and take less time to maintain than an inaccessible site - resulting in a higher return on investment. Risks are also reduced by the futureproofing that accessible design techniques can provide.
In maximising access, you are also catering for one of the most important site visitor groups - the search engines. The structured and semantic approach of accessible design also ensures that your pages are as search engine attractive as possible. Right from the start.
Recent statistics suggest that accessible sites achieve higher page rankings compared to more traditionally designed, sites where accessibility has not been a priority.
You can find further information on all of these issues in our Web Accessibility section but first ask yourself this …
Do you want to maxmise your audience using a search engine attractive site?
If the answer is "yes", think accessible.