Accessibility & Inclusion

Understanding the Full Spectrum Of Web Accessibility Needs In 2023

January 27, 2023 4 minute read
Addressing web accessibility needs is crucial for an inclusive internet. Learn about the array of impairments and how you can accommodate everyone.

For many people the term ‘web accessibility’ relates almost exclusively to online and digital access for people who are blind or visually impaired. While some of the tools, such as screen readers, that are used by people with low vision or visual impairment to surf the web may represent some of the more well known examples of web accessibility software in practice, they are far from being reflective of the whole story. 

In other words, web accessibility is not something tethered to one particular type of disability or impairment, but rather is a vital subset of user experience (UX) that aims to open up websites to the broadest range of people possible. Obviously, this range of people includes those with disabilities, and not just visual ones. 

In reality, the types of impairments faced by those using the internet are as varied as the websites they visit. And, in fact, many of these impairments are temporary in nature and can impact any one of us at any given time.

Web accessibility isn’t just for people experiencing blindness

Web accessibility is a rich and varied subject that encompasses a wide variety of needs and considerations. To reduce this rich and multifaceted area to being something that caters only to those with visual impairment is not only untrue, but also hazardous to the advancement of the cultural conversation around accessibility and what it truly means.  

To be clear — the misconception of web accessibility only being an issue for people who are blind comes from a good place, and it is certainly positive that people are awake to the difficulties presented to those with visual impairments online. But for the conversation to develop and move forward in a meaningful way, it's vitally important that organizations operating online understand that web accessibility is about far more than making websites friendly to those with blindness and other visual impairments

A glimpse of the full web accessibility spectrum

Let’s take a look at some of the more notable non-visual disability types that have a huge impact on the area of web accessibility: 

Motor impairments 

Motor impairment refers to the partial or total loss of a function of a body part, usually a limb or limbs. Users with motor impairments will commonly rely on tools such as alternative keyboards and mouth sticks to navigate online. 

Hearing impairments / deafness 

Hearing impairments can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe, or profound, and can affect both ears. People who suffer from hearing impairments will often be reliant on tools such as automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology to use the web. This helps convert spoken words and audio into text, ensuring users with hearing impairments can understand what's being said and engage in conversations.

Cognitive impairments 

Those with certain cognitive impairments will often find navigating a traditional website to be difficult or even impossible. For this reason, it is important to encourage inclusive practices that remove barriers to those who process information differently. 

While the disability types listed above are far from being comprehensive, it should serve to give you an idea of just how much more than visual impairment issues go into web accessibility. 

Expanding your accessibility horizons benefits everyone

The particular association that people continue to make between web accessibility and visual impairments is really only natural, as it is such an easily recognized impairment that people can immediately understand and relate to — but the simple fact is that good web accessibility practices benefit all users, irrespective of their physical or mental abilities. 

And, while it may not be realistic to expect the general perception of web accessibility to transform and flourish overnight, it is important for organizations to recognize that it's a complex and multi-faceted area that touches upon all aspects of human behavior online.

Curious how accessible your website is? Get a free site scan using our accessibility tool, Monsido by Acquia

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