November 17, 2017

Making The Web Available For Everyone

One of the traits of our office culture I really enjoy is that everyone here believes in the power of design. Not in a “drink the Kool-Aid and discuss typefaces” sort of way, but in the mindset of “I am empowered to make things that help others.”


We are working to create experiences that are as widely accessible online as possible. Through our time working with IFB Solutions (the largest blind agency in the country, located in our hometown of Winston-Salem) and some of our other clients, we have embraced three key touchstones:


  1. Good design is an agent for change.
  2. Good design is a universally applicable communications discipline.
  3. Good design tears down artificial barriers keeping people from living full lives.


Web accessibility (or “a11y” for short) is important because it makes information shared online available to as many different people as possible. With the explosion in the use of mobile devices and an increase in operating systems with built-in screen reading capabilities, users with a wide range of abilities expect to have content available to them regardless of form.


We will be posting much more about this subject in the future. We have some very exciting services planned for 2018.


In the meantime, I want to share a couple of quick thoughts around why a11y is so important to us and should be to you as well.


You’re likely reading this and asking yourself:


What are the benefits? (Also known as the “money question.”)


As you weigh the cost to make your web presence more inclusive, you’re likely wondering when and how your investment will pay off. Some of the main reasons to add a11y standards to your website include:


  1. Social Responsibility (reaching audiences with different capabilities)
  2. Enlarging Your Customer Base (20% of the population reports some sort of disability)
  3. More Efficient Code (load times and maintenance decreases, compatibility increases)
  4. Better Search Engine Optimization (information is structured logically)
  5. Avoiding Legal Troubles (being sued for having technical barriers to your content)


Why now? (Also known as the “urgency question.”)


Aside from the list above, there are very clear arguments why there’s no better time than the present to invest in an a11y update:


  1. There are currently about 57 million people in the U.S. with a disability (nearly 1 in 5), and 25% of the entire U.S. population—about 98 million—will be over 65 years of age by 2042. Those are two significant portions of our population.
  2. Mobile screen reader usage has increased by 70% between 2009 (12%) and 2014 (82%) and shows no sign of slowing down.
  3. The looming specter of legal trouble: close to 25% of web accessibility-related settlements have happened in the last three years. It’s better to be safe than sorry. (Don’t believe me? Visit one prominent attorney’s blog for the latest updates.)
  4. And last but not least, your website probably has some rough edges employees, visitors and customers have been tolerating for a while. It doesn’t look good on a phone. There are dead links. Now is a perfect opportunity to get them fixed.


Needless to say, we’re busy developing expertise around these two topics and many more. We’re excited to share more on this front in the new year. Stay tuned.



Census Bureau

Population Reference Bureau

Access iQ

ADA Title III (Launey & Aristizabal)

Photo of Elliot Strunk

Elliot Strunk, the Ringleader of Fifth Letter is always looking ahead to see what’s coming next to help our clients do the best they can with the resources they have. If you have any interest around a11y, he would love to talk with you.