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WAI: Strategies, guidelines, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities

[Draft] Sample Article for Managers

Editor's Draft in progress - updated $Date: 2010/09/27 13:48:48 $
Status: This document is an in-progress draft and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances. Please send comments to wai-eo-editors@w3.org (a publicly archived list).

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Article requirements and planning page

Main article - 750 words plus side bars

Web Accessibility Pays Dividends for Your Business

Has your organization considered web accessibility seriously? What if you could double your conversion rate within three months? What if you could increase your natural search engine trafic by fifty percent? Have you considered the ageing population? There is a strong business case for web accessibility that goes far beyond 'doing the right thing'.

The Web is increasingly an essential resource for participation in the 21st century: education, employment, government, commerce, health care, recreation, social interaction, and more are all online. Older people, who are increasingly online, along with people with disabilities, rely on access to the Web for many of these activities. The Web is used not only for receiving information, but also for providing information and interacting with society. In order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to older people and people with disabilities it is essential that the Web be accessible.

Statistics and demographics

The business case for web accessibility is overwhelming considering the number of people experiencing disabilities is increasing rapidly as the population ages. Older people are becoming an increasing market segment and an important target group for many businesses, governments, and other organizations. Additionally, there are many broader benefits to an organization and it’s website visitors.

The number of people over 65 in 2020 is expected to be nearly 30% in Japan, 20% in Europe and 16% in the US.

50% of people over 65 years may experience some forms of disability.

Can your organization afford to ignore the older market segment? The changing demographics around the world forecast ever increasing numbers of older people in most countries. In Europe the number of people over 65 years is forecast to increase from 17% in 2010 to 29% in 2050. Some countries are forecasting much higher proportions such as Spain which is expecting 36% of its population to be over 65 and Japan which is expecting 40% over 65 by 2050 [1, 2, 3].

The liklihood of disability increases markedly in later life, with significant numbers of older people experiencing hearing loss, vision decline, physical impairments, and reduced cognitive abilities. Studies show that 75% of people over 80 experience moderate or severe hearing loss and 46% of people over 85 have significant vision loss [4, 5]. Around 20% of people over 70 years are estimated to experience mild cognitive impairment, and essential tremor is experienced by up to 20% of those over 65 years [6, 7]. In Australia, while 20% of the overall population experiences a disability, 50% of the population over 65 years is classified as experiencing a disability [8]. Similar statistics are reported in the UK [9]. All of these people will benefit from an accessible web.

Broader beneficiaries [Types of users]

But it's not just about people with disabilities. While web accessibility focuses on people with disabilities, including older people with age-related impairments, it also benefits other individuals, as well as organizations themselves.

In addition to people with disabilities, other groups of people who can benefit from web accessibility include people with low literacy and those not fluent in the language of the website. Clear and simple language combined with good information organization and consistent navigation and layout makes it easier for non-native speakers to understand and interact with a site.

Mobile users are another increasing group that benefit from an accessible website. Users of mobile devices and people with disabilities experience many similar barriers when interacting with web content. The overlaps between the Mobile Web Best Practices and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are significant, and websites can more efficiently meet both goals when developers understand the significant complementary aspects of making a website work for a mobile device and be accessible for people with disabilities. For example, making sure the website is keyboard accessible for people who can't use a mouse helps mobile uses with no pointing device, only a keypad or joystick.

Organizational benefits

UK insurance firm Legal and General doubled visitor numbers, cut maintenance costs by two thirds, increased natural search traffic by 50%. They got a 100% ROI in 12 months [10].

Organizations can realize substantial additional benefits from accessible websites, including benefiting from better search engine optimization, reduced legal risk, demonstration of corporate social responsibility, and increased customer loyalty.

Direct financial benefits to the organization can be significant with web accessibility leading to improved search engine optimization. Search engines can only read text and only follow links that non-mouse users can access via the keyboard. Transcripts for audio and multimedia get indexed, and text instead of graphics for headings also helps rankings. CNET reported a 30% increase in Google traffic after they introduced transcripts for their videos [9].

The overlap between accessibility and usability can also improve the user experience for all, including older people. Increased usability means website users achieve their goals more effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily. When users have a positive experience with a website, they are likely to use the site more thoroughly, return to the site more often, and to tell others about the site.

Benefits can also be gained from good site and page structure, and the separation of content and presentation. Site maintenance effort can be decreased and better coding can help an organization be prepared for future web technologies. Additionally, a commitment to web accessibility can benefit internal intranet users too as many organizations are retaining experienced employees for longer. Furthermore, many countries are considering raising the retirement age.

The case studies about several organizations, along with other resources collected by WAI, demonstrate the clear benefits to organizations who embrace web accessibility as part of their ongoing web development effort. A commitment to web accessibility pays dividends.



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