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Last updated Mar 1, 2004.
You may ask if the cost for including accessible features in the beginning of the project would've cost just as much. Definitely not. It would've cost about 2% of the budget, according to Joe Clark, author of Building Accessible Web Sites. He explains that ensuring a site is accessible is by no means free, but it costs little and pays off when you can reach people who benefit. Imagine the cost that comes with bad public relations or getting sued.
People with disabilities aren't the only ones who benefit—users of handheld and mobile devices also benefit as accessible pages tend to load faster and aren't cluttered with graphics. This group deals with small screens, styluses, and device keyboards that aren't easy or fast to use. Don't think there are that many people using these? According to Gartner, 25 percent more PDAs were sold in the first quarter of 2005 than the year before. Gartner also reports that the second quarter of 2005 saw the second best mobile phone sales on record.
Furthermore, making sites accessible from the get-go means you reach the "Silver Surfer," which includes people over the age of 65—a demographic that's increasingly affluent and mobile.
Even if a law making Web site accessibility mandatory for businesses never happens, a business with an accessible Web site gains goodwill and reaches more customers because it's opening its site for everyone instead of just those who have no disabilities. According to the Census Bureau, 3.6 percent of the U.S. population has a sensory disability. Furthermore, thanks to advanced medicine, among other things, people are living longer lives.
As people age, they experience a decrease in vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities. More than 49 million Americans have a disability relating to the senses; physical activity limitations; or face physical, mental, or emotional challenges. What are the chances they'll stop by a Web site? If they find the site easy to use, the chance that they'll become repeat customers is high.
Accessible Web sites not only help those with a disability, but they also help those surfing without graphics turned on, those using text-based browsers such as Lynx, users with slower Internet connections, and people using mobile devices. Web sites that are validated from an accessibility perspective are optimized to work with any text-based browser or alternative devices.
With text-to-speech readers and programs that magnify the Web site, the Internet is more accessible than newspapers and magazines. Even with the amazing advances in devices that assist people with disabilities, they alone can't work with the Internet. They rely on screen readers, screen magnifiers, Braille devices, text resizing, and custom style sheets.