Apr 9, 2024

The web is Ableist - Wind & Kite's mission to bring the internet to everyone

Imagine you visit a website in order to purchase a new pair of shoes, a new jacket, or perhaps some furniture for your home. Like 80% of the UK population, you log online and visit an eCommerce website to make your purchase. 

In the UK, 24% of the population live with a disability, such as being blind or partially sighted or having limited mobility. Now imagine you visit a website where for you, the text appears a complete blur or is unreadable because of the colour contrast. Perhaps, the buttons you want to press to progress through the site are too small for you or with no descriptions to assist you.  All these frustrations are everyday occurrences for people living with disabilities. 

Quite rightly, In the United Kingdom, we have laws and legislation to ensure that we exist in a society where everyone is provided with a consistent and reasonable level of care and equality. The Equality Act 2010, requires businesses to make their site accessible to people with disabilities, including but not limited to those with visual, motor, hearing, cognitive and learning disabilities.

Sadly, this is not always enforced or even a conscious thought with some businesses and agencies, and it’s the classic problem of form over function.

To put it in physical terms, if you were to open a shop, and customers who wanted to enter found that had uneven flooring or several steps to gain access to this store, then this would limit customers with mobility issues being able to use your store. Additionally, if your shop had poor, dark lighting, with small price tags with unclear contrasting colours on your products then people who struggle with their sight, would be unable to make informed decisions on pricing. 

However, if the shop next door, selling identical products with exactly the same pricing, opened a store with a mobility ramp, and clear pricing with accessible lighting choices then that shop would ultimately take the revenue from customers and make more money. 

“Things designed specifically for people with disabilities often end up being valuable to many more people than originally planned. Most of us are effectively disabled some of the time. Wheelchair ramps at airports and stations are not only useful if you are in a wheelchair, they are also useful for wheeling heavy luggage. - Rory Sutherland”

If inaccessible stores such as the one detailed above existed, then that store would be required to make suitable changes to allow accessibility for people with disabilities. But despite this, due to the sheer size of the web, it often means that regulatory bodies are unable to act quickly, creating a cyberspace full of ableist content.

At Wind & Kite, we believe that businesses and agencies need to prioritise disabled users to make the internet a more open place, which let's be honest, should be a given, but sadly it’s a fact, that not all users can successfully navigate some websites to purchase what they need.

So what can businesses do to comply with this legislation; and ensure that all users can access the internet, regardless of if they have a disability? 

There are several tests which developers and agencies should be regularly using to test accessibility:

  • Screen Readers: Read out the contents of a site to  blind or partially sighted users
  • Contrast Ratio Checkers: Ensures that the difference between a background and foreground colour is enough to make it readable to colour-blind and partially-sighted users.
  • Target size: Ensures that anything that needs to be clicked or tapped is large enough, which goes a long way to help users with motor difficulties.

If all agencies focused on these three elements and accessibility as a whole, which all good development agencies should be prioritising, the Internet would ultimately be a much more accessible place, with very little additional costs to the client.

At Wind & Kite, we truly and honestly believe that making sites accessible isn’t just a legal requirement, it is morally the right thing to do.