As a screen reader user, having access to websites that cater for visually impaired users/customers is important.
There are several reasons; firstly, there are many types of visual impairment and the type of visual impairment can affect the way someone views a website. Someone may have some useful vision but depending on the accessibility, it can greatly affect the experience of a visually impaired customer.
If a web user has no useful vision and relies on screen reader software, to assist them to navigate around a website; the level of accessibility, is most important. Being able to scroll through pages of a particular site and finding the relevant information, easily and quickly, makes the difference between, a potential customer/web user, using that site again (if at all).
I use the web a lot and use many websites; I use JAWS screen reading software, to assist me to navigate. Depending on the way a website has been built and designed, will depend on my level of enjoyment, ease and ability to use the site. If a site has been built with no consideration for visual impaired users in mind, it can be very difficult for my screen reader to navigate the site with ease. which in turn makes it difficult for me to find the information I am looking for. This has a domino effect; if my screen reader can’t relay the information I am looking for, then I will eventually get to a point where the frustration is too much and I will leave the website. What does this mean? Well If I have the desire to purchase a product and I am unable to navigate the web page, I am more than likely to take my custom elsewhere, even if that means having to pay a little more for the service.
Companies should care about the accessibility of their websites, this is especially true if they’re a company who wish to increase their customer levels and revenue. With the advance of technology, more and more visually impaired people use the web and in particular for purchasing goods, as it is easier for visually impaired people to shop online, as opposed to high street shopping where it can be extremely busy and a stressful environment.
Actually, that isn’t true; a lot of visually impaired people are members of different communities, social forums, clubs etc. If they discover a website, they have had a good experience with, they are likely to share the experience with their friends, groups etc. Of course, visually impaired people will also relay any good experiences to their non-visually impaired friends, family or acquaintances. This could increase a company’s popularity, not to mention their profits.
It can be very cost effective, creating an accessible website, as mentioned above, you are likely to increase your customer levels. If you are in the process of building a new website and implement the accessibilities from the start it shouldn’t cost you any more than it would otherwise. It is not difficult to include simple accessible tools to a website; W3c (World Wide Web Consortium), have all the information needed for creating accessible websites. Use the following link to W3C website for more details https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/
Apart from anything else, providing a website that is accessible, shows potential users of your website, that you are professional, believe in equality, inclusion and delivering the best service to ALL your customers/visitors.
Even if you are not a company that sell on your website. Providing accessible information, should be a priority; service providers, information sites, entertainment sites etc. etc. who wish to live in a fair, equal and cyber enhanced society, should make the effort to be inclusive and allow everyone to access their website.
In my opinion, there is no reason why someone who wishes to provide a website can’t make it accessible to disabled people, the advantages are many and the disadvantages, are… none, accessibility equals profitability.