Dave Woods - Freelance Web Design Warwickshire

How to sell the benefits of accessibility to your boss

It goes without saying that accessibility is something that web developers should all be aware of and should all be attempting to reach full compliance with the WAI Guidelines wherever possible.

However, I’m sure that many of you will also have experience of resistence to this from project managers, clients or your direct manager who aren’t interested in supporting the small percentage of blind people out there.

So how can you convince them that they should be embracing accessibility?

Accessibility isn’t just about disabilities

A huge misconception by people who’ve heard of accessibility is that it’s sole purpose is to benefit the disabled.

I’ve heard on numerous occassions comments like…

Our industry won’t be attracting blind users so making a site accessible isn’t important to us.

Not only is this second guessing who will be visiting a website, it’s also missing the point completely. An accessible site does benefit people with disabilities but it also has much bigger advantages in that it can ensure that everyone is able to access a site regardless of disabilities.

For example, making a site accessible also benefits visitors who use different browsers, users who don’t have JavaScript and users on dial-up who browse the web without images. Whilst these types of users are in the minority, they do still make up a significant proportion of any site’s user base and as it’s no harder to build in the basic level of accessibility that’s required to satisfy these users, there really can be no excuses for getting at least the basics right.

Accessibility can improve your search engine rankings

When trying to sell the benefits of accessibility it’s important to remember that most clients want to hear about the benefits of complying with the WAI guidelines to their business. A tactic that I’ve used recently is to explain that not only does accessibility go along way to ensuring that all users will be able to access their webpage but just as importantly, it also ensures that search engine spiders will be able to access a web page.

By writing valid HTML you’re ensuring that search engines will clearly understand your content. By using semantic HTML and good descriptive text within things like your title, headings and anchor text you’re informing Google about your content. Ensuring that JavaScript isn’t used for important and essential content enables search engines to find all your content. Using text for all your content as apposed to images enables Google to read all your content and therefore can substantially improve your rankings for related searches, and so on.

Summary

There are lots of benefits of accessibility other than those that us as web developers feel are important. Yes, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that people with disabilities are able to use the web pages that we create but sometimes this argument alone isn’t enough to convince clients.

Take a step back from accessibility for a minute and consider what is important to your client? In my experience there’s always something that’s extremely important and valuable to a client that can be improved by considering the accessibility aspect of a website.

3 comments on “How to sell the benefits of accessibility to your boss

  1. Andrew Maxwell

    Great Article Dave, I am using the tactic myself that accessibility benefits SEO to my boss and I am slowly converting all of our websites to be compliant.

  2. David Churchyard

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the great article.

    Another trend away from accessible sites is the use of page sizes greater that 800 wide format.

    I have recently purchased an ASUS EEE PC. It’s screen resolution is 800×640. At the moment, ASUS don’t seem to be able to manufacture the machines quickly enough to supply the demand for them, so there will be a new breed of machines on the market having their users having to scroll websites left and right to see the content.

    The world suddenly seem to have abandoned the 800 format, including some major web sites – PayPal for example!

  3. Jermayn Parker

    A lot of companies do not really care that much about SEO incentives. They just care about the bottom line. Modifying and cleaning up current websites means a waste of time to many…

    My part time job has a Intranet and its the ugly duckling of the web but modifying it is out of the question as it would take too long.

    I tend to think its a loosing battle, maybe legal problems could help.