Accessibility – why bother?

maze formed by streetlamps blocking not lighting the wayI’ve been focusing a lot this year on web design, content and usability. Mainly because I’ve been working on my new web site, with lots of help from the wonderful and infinitely patient Zoë Tucker of Rude Goose. I’ve also attended several usability workshops run by the Nielsen Norman Group (aka NN/g) – and if anything focuses your mind on usability and accessibility issues, it’s an NN/g workshop. Their videos of web-savvy visually impaired or blind users trying to cope with thoughtlessly designed sites are painful to watch.

Yet some people dismiss accessibility as not worth bothering about. It’s not a legal requirement, they say. How many customers with disabilities are you likely to have? Why bother?

Well, accessibility is worth bothering about. It is, quite simply, right to bother. And even if your main concern is the bottom line, it makes sense to open up your site to as many users as possible. Why on earth exclude potential customers?

It doesn’t cost much to make a site accessible, in fact it needn’t cost anything at all, apart from some extra time and care in the design process. And accessible sites will probably benefit “able” users too, not to mention winning you search-engine brownie points.

A 2-part article I’ve just read by NN/g’s Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini makes a point that should give even the accessibility sceptics food for thought:

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be disabled? Well, you better start thinking about it! As my collegue Gregg Vanderheiden is fond of pointing out, “We all will have disabilities eventually, unless we die first”.

Bruce also cites two firms that have found an inclusive approach to be good for business: OXO, a household utensils producer whose distinguishing feature is:

Universal Design – A philosophy of making products that are easy to use for the widest possible spectrum of users.

and Simple Human, which designs

everyday tools to help people become more efficient at home

You can read Bruce’s thought-provoking article here and here for more accessibility  insights.

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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