Web accessibility has become a front and center topic in the world in recent years. We are witnessing a strong movement trying to make the worldwide web accessible. The initial questions that come to mind are: Is this an achievable goal? Can we make the web accessible to everyone? The answers to these questions are not quite simple.
To try and answer some of these questions we must look at accessibility from a wider lens. We need to review and understand disability in our world as a first step on this journey towards accessibility. In this light, here are a few things to keep in mind for the rest of this blog:
- 15% of the world’s population experience some form of disability.
- The CDC reports that 1 in 4 Americans lives with a disability. For many it prevents or limits them from using the web.
When we look at these statistics, we realize that the task at hand is not easily achievable. To understand how we can make significant progress we need to look at web and internet accessibility as a basic human right.
The pandemic has pushed the world to move out of its comfort zones, by limiting face to face interactions. As we start getting back to “normal life”, we see that some of the changes are here to stay. The first thing that comes to mind is remote work. What is the most basic requirement for someone to work remotely? Internet access! Many companies are adopting remote work as their main work model, and some are exploring the hybrid model. Does this affect the rate of employment for people with disabilities, especially if they have limited access to the web because of their disability? Does it decrease the window of opportunities for people with disabilities to find employment? On the flip side, is remote work increasing opportunities for people with disabilities? Does a remote work environment promote greater accessibility by removing transportation barriers or reducing sensory overload? This begs the question, does everyone have equal access to the web?
A sobering statistic shows that we are not even remotely on track to making a dent in web accessibility.
97.4% of the world’s top million websites do not offer full accessibility.
86.4% of homepages failed the contrast test of the WCAG 2 AA requirement. Where does this leave us?
This means that even if people have access to assistive technologies like screen readers, almost most of the internet is not compatible with assistive technologies. UNICEF reports that 2.5 billion people in the world need one or more assistive products for physical and cognitive disabilities. Yet nearly 1 billion are denied this access particularly in low income and middle-income countries.
Let’s take a look from another angle here. How about we consider internet access as a first step to achieving accessibility? Is internet access a basic human right? The simple answer is no. Should it be? Absolutely. However, only 63.1% of the world has internet access. This statistic shrinks significantly if we look at uncensored internet access. In some countries we see access to the internet used as a first tool for oppression. If we just look at the past year, we have too many real-life examples, unfortunately, about oppressive regimes using internet access as a weapon. When Russia invaded Ukraine, internet access in occupied territories was instantly cut off. The protests taking place in Iran right now are being subdued and silenced by the Iranian regime by taking internet access away from its people. So, it looks like the first step needs to be to improve internet infrastructure to achieve much wider accessibility on a global scale. The next step would be understanding and improving web accessibility, in order to improve accessibility for remote workers with disabilities.
What can we do today on an individual, organizational, and societal level to play a part in this mission? We can start by achieving a certain level of accessibility on our own websites. This can be done on so many levels, including Web design, content design, legal compliance, web localization, multilingual desktop publishing.
Why should we care about web accessibility? Well, besides all the reasons listed above and the fact that this would help us collectively have equal access to the web; it is also good for business! How do you feel about 54 million more people, in the U.S. alone, being able to access your website and buy your services and products, while using assistive devices?
To learn more about how Bromberg can you on your accessibility journey, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org