Nancy Urquilla is a blind, Los Angeles native who performs website accessibility testing in Be Accessible, Inc.’s Glendale, CA office. Gaining user perspective is one of the greatest assets to businesses as they work towards an accessible website. We met with Nancy and asked her a few questions about her experience with accessibility on the web. We encourage you to share these comments with your development teams as you provide training on how to create and maintain an inclusive website.
Q: How long have you been visually impaired and using assistive technologies?
A: I have been blind since birth due to congenital Glaucoma. I was first introduced to assistive technology in 2012 when I attended a 9-month program to learn blindness skills.
Q: What a big challenge you face when accessing websites?
A: Many websites display text on pictures and screen readers are unable to capture this information to turn into speech.
Q: What defines an accessible website for you?
A: The most important thing that makes a website accessible is that my screen reader is able to navigate and read all elements found in a website using the keyboard. In addition, one should be able to navigate this website completely independent without the assistance of a sighted person.
Q: What are some websites that you use that are very accessible?
A: My bank’s website is very accessible. I bank with Wells Fargo and I am able to get everything done on that website without ever requiring the assistance of a sighted person to accomplish the tasks at hand.
Q: Can you tell right away if a site is accessible and what do you do if it’s not?
A: Yes, I can definitely tell right away. Sometimes my screen reader will simply announce a link or button and nothing else. Other times it will simply announce blank. If it is at all possible, I contact the website developers to let them know about their website being inaccessible.
Q: How has technology made your day-to-day life more convenient?
A: Assistive technology has allowed me to compete on equal grounds with my sighted peers in so many ways. It is because of assistive technology that I am able to have a job and to perform all the functions and responsibilities required. I can pretty much do everything a sighted person can, using my computer with the screen reading software and with my iPhone.
Q: Do you feel companies are becoming more inclusive to the visually impaired?
A: I find that very few companies are making it a point to be inclusive. Unfortunately, more companies don’t seem to think that accessibility is a priority especially if they have one or no individuals who need their services in an alternative format.
Q: Working at Be Accessible, how does it feel to have your feedback incorporated into the design of websites?
A: I feel as if I have accomplished something very important. Not only do I want for all websites to be accessible to work with screen readers for my personal use, but also for our future generations. When I was growing up, I struggled to get my school materials in an accessible format and I would love for that barrier to finally disappear. People with disabilities should have equal access to information just as everyone else.
We’ve posted free resources to help you learn and apply web accessibility into your workflow.
How web accessibility benefits business owners
If you are a business owner, you may be familiar with the term bounce rate. The bounce rate of a website is the rate of how long users stay on a website. Unlike conversion rates that we want to be high, our goal is to have a lower bounce rate. The lower the bounce rate, the longer people are staying on the website.
On the contrary, a higher bounce rate indicates a poorly constructed site. A website that ignores the importance of accessibility and lacks necessary elements would be considered a poorly constructed site. A poorly constructed website includes things like non-responsive design, lack of color contrast, and missing form labels.
Our goal is to keep people on our website longer so that they discover more reasons why they should choose us over our competitors. A study found that 71% of disabled web users will leave a website when it is not accessible. This is a large enough percentage to have a significant impact against the overall bounce rate. Business owners must prioritize web accessibility to avoid potential loss of customers.
How web accessibility benefits developers and Google
If your web developer argues that web accessibility does not benefit them, then it may be time to find a new developer as it is just undeniable how vital web accessibility for developers is, especially nowadays. Developers aim to create high quality websites and know that the cleaner the code is, the faster their websites will run. If a website’s load time is slow or a website fails to rank high in search results, the development team is responsible. Cleaner code means faster, high quality code. Semantically correct code is cleaner code. Accessible code is semantically correct. This means that code is written according to specifications. HTML elements (code) have semantic meaning. Developers optimize a website’s accessibility and performance by using code as it is intended.
Aside from having fewer bugs and making a website load faster, semantic code also helps search engines such as Google and Bing to index the content and achieve higher search rankings. For example, let’s say that a web page is about comparing web development platforms such as WordPress and Shopify. The page visually uses headings to organize its content. The code of the page uses paragraph tags with classes (used for targeting styles) to create the visual appearance of headings like this:
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The importance of color contrast in digital accessibility
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