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Opinion Disability

Opinion: The importance of improving inclusivity online

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It’s estimated that one in five Australians live with a disability, yet a significant proportion of digital information and services are not accessible to all users.

This inaccessibility spans various digital platforms, from websites to mobile applications, making it challenging for people with disabilities to navigate and interact with essential services. As more and more of our everyday activities shift to the digital world not only are people with disability facing increased challenges in communicating, accessing information, and managing daily tasks, but businesses and organisations are cutting themselves off from a significant cohort of customers and users.   

Vision Australia’s 2022 research among Australia’s blind and low-vision population highlights these challenges. The majority of blind and low-vision respondents find websites extremely (21.8%) or somewhat (37.6%) difficult to use. Additionally, 22.0% of respondents find websites neither easy nor difficult to use, while only 13.9% find websites somewhat easy and just 4.7% find them extremely easy to use. Similar difficulties are reported with native apps, with 24.4% finding them extremely difficult and 34% somewhat difficult to use, compared to only 5.7% who find them extremely easy to use.  

WebAIM’s 2024 research found that low-contrast text and missing alt-text are the two most common accessibility issues across the internet.   

Without alt-text, people who are blind or have low vision, and others who use screen-reading technologies, miss out on a huge amount of information that images are supposed to convey.   

Incorrect colour contrast can make it nearly impossible for people to navigate a web page or app or digest the information a platform might hold.  

These common mistakes highlight the need for digital platforms to be designed with accessibility in mind from the beginning. Understanding the need for accessibility, and the sometimes simple, fixes, ensures all users can engage fully with the digital world and perform basic functions such as reading content, filling out forms, or making online purchases.   

Allowing accessibility mistakes to continue to exist is digital exclusion that impacts the quality of life for those with disabilities, affecting their independence and ability to participate fully in society. These barriers extend to all aspects of online life, from educational resources and job applications to social media and online banking.  

Inaccessible digital platforms also negatively impact organisations. By neglecting to make their digital services accessible, businesses are missing out on a significant market segment and potentially damaging their reputation. In today’s digital age, inclusivity is not just a legal and ethical obligation but also a smart business strategy.   

Accessible design benefits everyone, not just those with disabilities. It improves user experience across the board, leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty. Furthermore, accessible websites and apps can enhance SEO efforts, making it easier for all users to find and engage with content.  

To address these issues and help businesses work towards a more digitally inclusive future, Vision Australia’s Digital Access team has launched on-demand training courses, including a Writing Alt-text Masterclass and a Making Colour Accessible course. These programs are designed to equip developers, designers, creatives, and other professionals with the skills needed to create accessible digital content, promoting inclusivity and broader access.   

Vision Australia’s Digital Access team ensures that their training courses are practical and relevant by incorporating insights from people who are blind or have low vision. The proceeds from these courses support Vision Australia’s services for the blind and low-vision community, reinforcing the importance of inclusive design for both individuals with disabilities and the organisations that serve them.  

Each course is developed by a team with extensive experience in over 1000 accessibility projects across various organisations and businesses, with input from individuals with lived experience of disability. By offering these on-demand training courses, Vision Australia aims to improve accessibility on digital platforms, ensuring that people with disabilities can engage with digital content as easily as others. 

Related: New research shows young Australians identify themselves as a barrier to inclusion in the low vision community

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in digital accessibility, user experience design, and product development. As the National Manager for Digital Access at Vision Australia, he collaborates with clients to help them achieve their digital accessibility goals. Josh holds a Bachelor of Computing from Monash University in Melbourne, Victoria, and has completed a Product Management program at General Assembly in Melbourne, Victoria. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level 1 Candidate and a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP).

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