Who are accessible websites for?

Traditionally when people think about making a website accessible for people with disabilities their first thought are for people who are blind or deaf. While this is technically true it is more complicated than that as the range of disabilities is very long and covers both permanent and temporary conditions (here is a great list with many examples).

The W3C list of disabilities covers the following, I have also included some statistics about the prevalence of each in Australia. 18.5% or 4.2 million people have a permanent disability that impedes their day to day living according to the ABS results in 2012. I also obtained some data from a study conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Network on Disability. (Please note that as some stats are from different studies and some people have more than one disability, the numbers do not add up nicely).

Number of people with disabilities in Australia
Type of disability Percentage of population Number of people in millions
Visual Impairments 1-2% 0.35 MM
Hearing impairments 17% 3.8 MM
Motor impairments 11% 2.4 MM
Cognitive impairments 4% 0.87 MM
Speech impairments 1-2% 0.35 MM

So roughly 1 in 5 Australians has a permanent disability which affect how they use a computer and the internet, with many more having temporary conditions. These could range from having a repetitive stress injury, broken bones, the flu or sleep deprivation.

This isn’t to scare people into accessibility, merely to make people aware of the range and variety of disabilities that can affect how people use the internet. In reality most modern websites are set up ok, HTML 5 has come a long way in terms of making sure the site is accessible, particularly for screen readers.

There are always things people can do better to make the internet a more inclusive place, not just for people with disabilities but by making websites and applications easier and nicer to use for everyone. This is what I plan to address in the upcoming posts, some of the main points on how to make your site accessible, followed up in the future by evaluating real life sites on what they do well and what could be done better.

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