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Web accessibility: Good for society, good for business


15 March 2013

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An accessible website is often the easiest way to do business with people with disabilities – for example, those who find it difficult to get to a physical store or cannot read printed material.

For most of us, surfing the Web has become almost second nature. But for millions of people with disabilities, the Internet remains inhospitable territory.

This does not need to be so.

Huge strides have been made in technologies that help provide web accessibility for everyone. And many of the major companies that have adapted their websites say it was well worth the effort, in terms of good publicity, increased web traffic and, on many occasions, additional profits.

An accessible website is often the easiest way to do business with people with disabilities – for example, those who find it difficult to get to a physical store or cannot read printed material.

This is a huge potential market, considering that about one billion persons worldwide live with a disability.

And there are plenty of success stories.

Tesco, for example, implemented a fully accessible version of its British online grocery store. It cost £35,000 (USD 52,000) to develop and generates approximately £1.6 million in annual revenue, according to a case study cited by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Another British company, the Legal & General Group, says that after implementing accessibility changes in 2005, its website received almost double the number of visitors seeking quotes or buying financial products. The changes also cut maintenance costs by two thirds, according to the company.

Some of the technologies that make the web more accessible include:

- Speech-to-text, which enables people who are hard of hearing to read audio output from the computer.

- Voice input as an alternative to a mouse for people with mobility impairments.

- Screen reader software and text-to-Braille hardware, which make it possible for blind people to operate computers.

“Access to technology and telecommunications is vital to our success as a society and as a country,” says Jennah Bedrosian, of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).

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