In my podcast, I explore the many different facets of the world of high tech from development to marketing, to sales, to entrepreneurship, all with the goal of collecting key insights on startups for listeners to gain value from this knowledge-sharing. So, what did I discover this week?
Web accessibility has been an issue since the internet's adoption. In short, it is the inclusive practice of ensuring access to websites by people with physical, mental, and situational disabilities. To the commonly referred to as able-bodied internet users, this may seem almost intuitive or somewhat inherent that a website should be “accessible”. However, it is only once we are truly confronted with a handicap that we ourselves could even begin to grasp what it means to enter a website and find it inaccessible.
Adopting Web Accessibility
Whether you are partially blind and have issues reading small website text, colour blind and see all the website colours mesh together, or physically unable to scroll through a page and need other commands to do so, the world of website accessibility is multi-faceted and aims to answer many needs. Over the last few years, legislation likewise has accelerated the adoption of web accessibility technologies with various standards put in place to guarantee compliance. For example, people in Canada who fail to have accessible websites can face fines of up to $250,000.
While these measures certainly help provide greater access to handicapped populations, adopting technology solutions to make a website accessible is not always incentivized and still, the path to full adoption is slow. Menashe Shani, CEO, and co-founder of Purple Lens, aims to create a SaaS offering that will lead to quicker adoption of web accessibility standards and rival some of the competing web accessibility technology solutions on the market. Most importantly, he aims to help business owners make their websites accessible, and customized to their needs, easily and with minimal work on the owners’ side.
“Each business is unique with its own challenges and our solution is personalized to each business owner so that everyone gets what is right for their business when it comes to web accessibility,” Menashe adds.
What he hopes to do with his company is not only create a product that helps with web accessibility but also change the current way developers and business owners perceive web accessibility. In this way, he hopes to forever change how digital society interacts with handicapped communities.
The Focus Must Be on All Users
Menashe emphasizes that accessibility is more than just providing a way out of inconvenient lawsuits or “doing good” but it is a critical building block for any business. Accessibility, at the end of the day, focuses on usability, or the ability to actually navigate and interact with a website properly. Usability is something that impacts all users on any site, no matter their level of disability. Therefore, “to better the user experience on a website, a person definitely needs to be thinking about accessibility from the beginning of the web development process and not as an add-on,” Menashe goes on to explain.
One of Purple Lens’ main goals, as Menashe goes to describe it, is the redefinition of web accessibility to be part of web design. Just as a UX/UI designer may design sitemaps and interfaces that set the tone and direction of the website, they should also be taking into consideration accessibility parameters. Likewise, when developers and designers begin implementing and coding websites, web accessibility should be just as readily understood to them as say what should be present in a website’s header or footer. With this market education, comes the potential for a true revolution in web accessibility, and perhaps the societal perception of handicapped people in general.
Accessibility Means Business Growth
Building websites in this way, beyond the inclusion of handicapped persons, is good for business. “Someone comes on a site and can’t interact with it, or has problems doing so, if there are no solutions for it, then you can’t make a sale, and there is no business,” Menashe says, “so we are helping businesses achieve a better customer experience and grow their revenue.” The amount of lost business website owners face can be tremendous, especially when you consider the fact that a reputation of non-accessibility can spread too and stop people from making a purchase even before entering the website. Menahse makes it clear that good website accessibility is good usability which is good for business.
As you go about building your own eCommerce site or setting up your business’ website, you must consider web accessibility. Put it as a top priority and see how you can even use solutions like Purple Lens to facilitate the process. At the end of the day, including handicapped people is the right thing to do both morally and commercially.