The Value of Accessibility

Robert Howells
Website Manager - UK EMEA Health Solutions

Prior to joining Elsevier I worked for seven years building and managing websites in the social care sector. What I bring to Elsevier from working in social care is a commitment to ensuring accessibility is central to my projects.

In social care we involved groups and individuals from our key market segments in product and website development. These stakeholders represented a diverse range of needs and interests to help ensure that everything we built was fully accessible to all.

When considering website accessibility people immediately think of text to speech browsers but there are many more considerations to take into account. For example the range of visual impairments such as contrast and colour blindness, motor issues such as difficulty in using a mouse, and a wide range of physical and cognitive issues around usability and readability, all of which can impact how people find and make use of our products.

In the UK there is a legal requirement to make websites accessible under the Disability Discrimination Act but it also makes good business sense. An accessible website will reach a wider audience, will work on a wider array of devices and platforms and then there’s Google. When Google indexes and ranks websites it behaves like a blind five-year-old. It cannot see images and has almost no level of comprehension. For your website to be listed accurately Google is dependent on your site being structured and written in an accessible manner.
It’s also worth noting that accessibility is not just for technologists. We should all be aware that many of our audience have English as a second language so it makes sense to use plain English in all of our communications.

Recently, I discovered the Accessibility Group at Elsevier working towards similar aims. I have joined the group and was delighted to discover many initiatives and projects across the business. Going forward I’m hoping that the group can further embed accessibility within our business processes and commissioning.

For me, accessibility, like any measure of equality, is not about being inclusive for the sake of it. It’s simply about treating people fairly. And when it comes to helping our products reach the widest possible audience that also makes good business sense.

Robert Howells