Why web accessibility is even more important in and in the face of COVID-19

More people are accessing the digital world out of necessity due to COVID-19 who may have avoided it before. With 30% of internet users from ages 16-64 with some form of disability, web accessibility is now of extreme importance.

- 6. October 2022

Why web accessibility is even more important in the face of COVID-19

At Adapt, we have previously stressed the importance of accessibility on the web. Ensuring web accessibility accommodates users who are digitally challenged but also greatly improves the user experience for non-challenged users. If you already know that you need to do something, but don’t know-how, you can read our guide to web accessibility to get started. 
However, if you are still not convinced, let us give you a few reasons why, in 2021 and in the face of COVID-19, you should ensure that web accessibility is a top priority in your digital presence.  
During the COVID-19 pandemic, people’s lives have changed dramatically. Suddenly, working and studying from home has become the norm, resulting in a tremendous increase in remote meetings and online classes around the world. With the overnight message that people should stay at home, COVID-19 forced new groups of users to engage in online activities such as shopping, education, and information-seeking with public authorities. 

New users turn online

Research shows that around 30% of people between 16-64 years old consider themselves to have some form of disability that may work as a barrier in their ability to access the digital world. During the pandemic, all of these people, who might have walked down to a physical store pre-COVID-19, have been forced to use the internet to acquire basic necessities such as food, clothes, and toilet paper. This provides ecommerce and grocery websites with many new potential customers. 
Furthermore, those who are considered ‘high risk’, mostly people in the older part of the population (75 years and above), became unable to walk down to the grocery store or any place of business. They, as well, had to turn to the internet for help.
Even though many elderly people consider themselves to have good skills within the digital realm, it cannot be denied that age-related impairments such as the decline of eyesight and fine motor skills can act as a barrier for the use of digital websites and products. These problems can become more serious if the creators of these products have not focused on ensuring a certain level of web accessibility.
As we have seen a huge increase in the number of people who have bought groceries online, the platforms that have had a continuous focus on ensuring web accessibility will have had a great advantage over those that have not. To put this advantage into numbers, a study made by the British Click-Away Pound found that 69% of the surveyed people who meet an inaccessible website will simply leave the site right away. 
Without focusing on web accessibility in your digital presence, you may exclude a large number of potential customers who will then turn to competitors.  

Everyone will benefit from web accessibility - including your business

Ensuring a certain level of web accessibility is not limited to accommodate these new groups of potential customers, but it will also work towards maximizing your existing customer base. 
Many of the accessibility features and actions, that are developed with digitally challenged individuals in mind, will most certainly have a positive spillover effect on able-bodied individuals, as well. Elements, such as securing a consistent design and navigation, providing understandable content, clear color contrasts, and a website that can be navigated by both a keyboard and a screen reader are a few of the things that cater to both people with disabilities, elderly people, and everyone else in general. The features and actions that are essential for making sure that people with disabilities can use the internet are also providing a better user experience for everyone. 
  • Captioning in videos is crucial for people with hearing disabilities, but it is also important for people in loud environments or even individuals who are not comfortable speaking a specific language. 
  • Large and easy-to-press buttons are necessary for people with deteriorating motor skills but also important for users on the move or traveling on a shaky bus. 
  • Navigating a website with a keyboard is a requirement for people with one arm, but it is also important for people who have broken a hand or a person holding an infant child.
Apart from providing a much better user experience, ensuring web accessibility is also closely related to better Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This means that Google will reward you and your business if you ensure a certain level of web accessibility, such as providing alternative texts for images and descriptive links which can be read by a screen-reader and a Google crawler.
If you are interested in more on this subject, you can read our post on why web accessibility is good for your business.

The law of web accessibility progresses

Mainly focusing on public institutions and bodies that are governed by public law, it was decided on the 23rd of September, 2020, that all public institutions’ websites should be accessible. In this case, accessible means complying with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines, level A and AA.
Even though the lawful aspects should not be the only reason for you and your business to consider designing with web accessibility in mind, it is undeniably an important aspect. Companies and institutions that have had a continuous focus on ensuring web accessibility and complying with the WCAG standards have, therefore, had an advantage over those that have not. 
And who knows how long it takes before the lawful aspects of web accessibility will include the private sector?

Web accessibility is a social responsibility

Lastly, it is important to note that web accessibility is not only an aspect of increased business opportunities and larger market share. At Adapt, we believe that creating inclusive and accessible websites is a societal responsibility. 
As the world we live in and the information we obtain becomes increasingly digital, ensuring that websites are accessible for people regardless of impairments and disabilities is a way of providing equal access and equal opportunity for all.
Digital platforms might enable people with different types of impairments to participate in society in a way that is difficult in the physical world. Therefore, it is important that these platforms are inclusive and accessible.

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