Selfish Reasons for Accessible Web Authoring
By Kynn Bartlett
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In his 26 April
1999 column on the AWARE Center, CNET
builder.com's "Master Builder" Dan
As I've pointed out, there are strong, selfish advantages to be
gained by making your site accessible; but, not all of your efforts
apply only to those who visit your site and who happen to have a disability.
This led to a discussion on the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative interest
group mailing list, in which Bruce Bailey challenged us to list as many
"selfish" reasons to produce an accessible web site. Never one to turn
down a tossed gauntlet, this page is presented as a list of purely greedy,
self-serving, un-altruistic motives for making your page widely accessible.
Search engines primarily index based on TEXT. That means
your images and other multimedia will NOT factor into your
search engine placement UNLESS you have text equivalents!
Some search engines also use the structure of your document to determine the
placement -- part of making an accessible site is making it well-structured,
and good structure can influence your search engine hits, because it's that much
easier for an automated program to process.
In some parts of the world (such as the US) for some people (such as local,
state, and federal governments), website accessibility isn't just a good idea,
it's the LAW. If your agency's website is not accessible to the
handicapped, you could be facing an ADA complaint or other lawsuit! (Granted,
this is a selfish argument for inaccessible websites if you
happen to be a greedy lawyer!) [Note: I like lawyers, the preceding is a joke.]
The people who can afford to buy the latest nifty Internet gadgets, such as
Pilot/Windows CE PDAs,
web-enabled pagers and cell phones, and AutoPCs are also the same people who may
be spending a lot of money online. If you are running an e-commerce site, these
rich folks with too much money to spend on tech toys may be key
customers who you can't afford to alienate!
Along a similar line as the preceding, you may be missing out on business if
other folks can't get to your site. Here's a nice quote about how much potential
income from people with disabilities you may be passing up on:
"Consumers with disabilities control more than $175 billion in
discretionary income. They, like all consumers, are more likely to patronize
businesses where they feel welcome. Accessible stores, products and services,
along with employees with disabilities, will help customers with disabilities
feel that their business is appreciated." [source]
I'd like $175 billion, wouldn't you?
You can get a better job if you understand accessible web design. Really.
Learning the principles of accessible web authoring will teach you so much
more about the web than you've known before. I know this from experience, and
from talking to the students who have completed my online
course in accessible web design. You'll understand what HTML really does,
how it works, how it doesn't work, and how best to use it to create
cross-platform, interoperable web applications that can be used by everyone.
So you'll be a better web author. And being "better" means more
money, and higher paying jobs, because you know your stuff. Wouldn't any true
"professional" want to improve her skills? Any trained web monkey can
make an inaccessible page -- how many know how to make a web site correctly?
Internet we build now will survive, in form or in spirit, for the foreseeable
future. As the currently youngish body of web authors ages, we too will fall
victim to the ravages of age -- including decreased vision, hearing, mobility,
and cognition. Therefore, the foundations of accessible web authoring practices
you lay down today could be the key to your own continued access in 10, 20, 30,
or 40 years.
We are currently building a new economy, a new government, a new society that
is based around the Internet. How ironic it would be if the foundation stones
don't include accessibility, and then when we need it in our old age -- we
can't? The access you ensure today may be your own, tomorrow!
Anyone of us could become disabled at any time. Some disabilities are
"since birth", but many are the result of unplanned circumstances. Web
authors are particularly susceptible to loss of ability to type or use a mouse
due to RSI, but really, anyone could be in a car accident tomorrow. Would you
want to find yourself not only disabled but also unable to use the Internet?
For this reason, it makes perfect sense -- self-preservation -- to make sure
that the web is usable by all. YOU could be one of "the
disabled" next week!
More Selfish Reasons
Did I miss any? Feel free to send me your own
selfish reasons! Warning: All altruistic motives will be discarded, this
page is only for the most greedy, petty of justifications!
This essay copyright © 1999 by Kynn Bartlett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
and is reprinted here with permission.