Why Web Accessibility Is Important

Accessibility is Both Essential and Useful.

Faculty, staff, and students are often unsure of what we mean when we speak of web accessibility. Web accessibility is an issue that is relevant to all people, not just for those with a disability. Understanding, using, and planning for web accessibility can be overwhelming, and full compliance is best approached as a gradual journey. To be most effective, web accessibility must be addressed proactively, and involves educating oneself about accessibility, creating accessible content, and making that content readily available to all online users.

The following three videos from W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (W.A.I.) puts web accessibility into perspective, addressing why it is both essential and useful.

Web Accessibility Perspectives–Video Captions

Web Accessibility Perspectives—Colors with Good Contrast

Web Accessibility Perspectives—Clear Layout and Design

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility works to inclusively enable access to a website by all users, regardless of the user’s level of ability, condition, or circumstances. It focuses on eliminating barriers that can block a user’s access to a website and taking an active approach to creating a fully inclusive website for everyone, including people with visual, cognitive, physical, and auditory disabilities.

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4 primary reasons why accessibility matters to us:

It’s inclusive and provides equal access to everyone, especially people with disabilities.

It promotes usability.

It’s the right thing to do.

It’s the law.

Why does it matter?

There are at least four primary reasons why accessibility is important and should matter to us:

It’s inclusive and provides equal access to everyone, especially people with disabilities.

In 2011, the National Center for Education Statistics found that 11% of undergraduate students reported having a disability, and recent data found that almost 13% of the U.S. population has a disability. Potentially excluding such a substantial percentage of the population would be in contrast to UNCG’s mission to be “an inclusive, collaborative, and responsive institution making a difference in the lives of students and the communities it serves.”

It promotes usability.

When we consider accessibility in our online content design, it also enhances usability, and often results in a more intuitive user experience. Online content that meets accessibility requirements is likely to be more user-friendly for everyone. People without disabilities can benefit from accessible design, particularly when they are in limiting situations such as:

  • Reading captions for a video when in noisy or quiet environments
  • Adjusting screen brightness in a dark or bright room
  • Reading a transcript of a presentation to reinforce the information learned
  • Using the keyboard to navigate a website when the mouse is not working

It’s the right thing to do.

Accessibility allows people with disabilities to actively participate in our society. In addition to being leaders of innovation and progress, institutions of higher education are also regarded as having a certain level of responsibility to society. Accessibility supports this notion as well as UNCG’s mission.

It’s the law.

There are many federal and state laws that require higher ed institutions to make their electronic and web content accessible to people with disabilities. Violating these laws can result in a loss of funding (including federal financial aid funds), as some universities have faced legal action for web accessibility non-compliance. The University of Washington has developed thorough summaries of several higher education resolution agreements and lawsuits involving web accessibility.  More information about these laws can be found on the Laws & Guidelines related to Accessibility page.

Who benefits?

It’s better for society and everyone.

Accessible online content means that everyone is included—no one is left out of receiving your message. Inclusive messages means that we can all participate and receive the same information. It benefits society as a whole by allowing more people to be actively involved, contributing their ideas and point of views.

It makes sense financially.

Accessible websites and online content are more likely to attract a wider audience of potential users. For UNCG this means expanding its reach into a variety of areas, which could lead to an increase in website visitors, enrollment in courses, use of services, and more.

Also, accessible websites have higher search engine optimization. This means that accessible websites are ranked higher and will be closer to the top of a Google, Yahoo, or other search engine. It is also less expensive to build an accessible, standards-compliant website at the start, rather than going back and redesigning it up from the ground up.