Making the business case for accessibility

The headline finding of our recent report into digital accessibility in the travel industry was that businesses could do a lot more to improve the accessibility of their websites and help disabled people book their holidays. There at least 1.1 billion disabled people on the planet, with a combined spending power in excess of $4 trillion. Even diluted across different industries, that’s a sizeable base of potential customers and revenue.

The changing environment of accessibility

The London Paralympics did much to encourage awareness of the broad spectrum of disabilities and to redefine what ‘disabled’ means in the public sphere. At the same time, the increasing desire for mobile technology means that features that would once have been seen as accessibility bolt-ons have become essential, for example mobile users are often 'temporarily disabled' in bright sunlight or when using their phone one-handed whilst walking, or hands-free whilst driving.

Getting ahead of the competition

As this example shows, accessible design offers an opportunity for any business to respond to customer needs and gain a competitive advantage.

Anyone in a global, highly competitive industry such as travel and tourism needs to take every opportunity to stand out from the crowd. It is also an industry that has started to recognise the market opportunities in catering for disabled customers, with many catering for their needs when travelling and providing specialist facilities in their destinations. This is especially true for those sectors that target older customers - such as cruise companies that provide extensive facilities on board and are careful to design their ships to cater for older customers.

However they aren't so careful when it comes to making sure that their website is accessible - which means some of their potential cusotmers won't be able to browse their site or make a booking.

Our accessibility team recently conducted tests on some of the biggest sites of the UK travel industry and their research shows how badly they are performing when it comes to accessibility. You can read the full report and review the findings in more detail in our e-Nation Report.

 SITE	Technical Compliance	User  Testing	Accessibility Help - British Airways	AMBER	AMBER	GREEN Carnival	RED	AMBER	RED Club Med 	GREEN	AMBER	RED EasyJet	AMBER	AMBER	RED First Choice		RED	AMBER	GREEN Monarch	RED	AMBER	RED Quantas	AMBER	AMBER	AMBER Ryan Air	RED	AMBER	RED Saga	RED	AMBER	RED STA Travel	RED	AMBER	RED Thomas Cook	RED	AMBER	GREEN Virgin Atlantic	AMBER	AMBER	AMBER


The travel industry is a highly competitive, billion dollar industry where a small change in market share can mean a massive uplift in revenues. Knowing that your competitors are performing poorly in a particular area offers a huge opportunity to reach new audiences and provide a much better service.

AbilityNet’s Head of Digital Inclusion, Robin Christopherson points out that a niche subject like accessibility can offer huge gains for any business that takes it seriously. “It’s a very neglected area that can have a massive impact. Following the accessibility guidelines (WCAG2.0) is the quickest way to get a competitive edge because your competitors are doing so poorly.”  

By improving the accessibility of their website and other digital content, any one of these companies could expand their customer base and earn millions in increased revenue in the process.

To find out more about the business case for accessibility, you can watch this presentation by AbilityNet's Mark Walker.

How Accessibility Helps SEO

Getting on the first page of Google results is the holy grail for SEO, but many web designers and marketers don’t realise that optimising their website for accessibility will help achieve their goal. 

""Search engines are central to the way we browse the web, which is why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is vital for businesses across the world. For many of us the way Google produces the results is akin to magic, but for the SEO industry it is a moving target, always evolving and requiring constant attention on your website and in the network of online content that feed Google's robots or spiders, that constantly scour the web.

Like any search engine Google's 'magic' is built upon powerful algorithms that evaluate the data collected by the robots and decide which page provides the 'best' answer to any given question. The SEO industry is built on an understanding the rules that govern that algorithm - and those of other search engines - so that you can optimise what you present to the robots and reach the front page for those terms that relate to your business or service.

There are all sorts of ways of achieving this, and the SEO business has a chequered history. Although many agencies behave ethically and work hard at producing high quality content, each iteration of the search engine algorithms brings a fresh wave of tricks and dodgy practices designed to push specific results up the rankings.

Google's goal is to make sure that only the best, most relevant content is linked on its results page. That's why it each update seeks to weed out the worst examples of so called Black Hat SEO, such as building automated websites that generate spurious links to content, or stuffing alt-text and other meta-tags with endless streams of keywords. 

Some of the most recent changes are more subtle, however, such as penalising the use of guest blogs. Although the use of guest blogs isn't, of itself, an unethical practice, it has become a common tactic employed by SEO professionals to circumvent previous Google iterations. Some sites that rely on links to connect within their network will lose rankings - innocent bystanders in the ongoing cat-and-mouse games that characterise SEO.

Optimising for SEO and accessibility

However things are now reaching a point where only the best practice in content creation are likely to succeed. In a recent AbilityNet webinar on the subject, Gerry White of digital agency Site Visibility explained that best practice for SEO now reflects best practice for accessibility.

As he said, "Making your web content accessible to all will make it available to the widest possible audience, as well as making it work harder for SEO purposes. Google's changes increasingly put the focus on what you can do on your own site, to make the content as transparent and accurately described as possible."

One of the key threads in the webinar was how Google’s algorithm changes are geared towards serving its users with the best content to answer their queries. Optimising for accessibility does this by allowing users with accessibility requirements to fully access content on your website, reducing the risk of them bouncing out of your site - negatively impacting your site in the eyes of Google - and increasing the chances of retaining them as a customer.

Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion, also used the webinar to explain in more detail some of the best practice for alt-text and other tagging.

"This is really about quality over quantity," he explains. "You don't need to stuff a site with keywords if you are clearly labeling your content. Thinking about the needs of someone using a screen-reader, for example, is a great way to describe the content and will also be lapped up by the Google robots who scour the web."

Find out more about how accessible design helps SEO by viewing the recording of our SEO and Accessibility webinar (60 mins) - or read the full transcript.

SiteVisibility: Think beyond the clickYou can also view our recent webinar about accessible alt-text and read the blog by Senior Accessibility and Usability Consultant Stefan Sollinger outlining how to ensure your alt-text is correctly optimised. 

Summertime and the reading is easy....

So it's summertime and as the song goes, the living is easy. But is your holiday reading easy? Of course it's great to read books while sitting in the sun. What happens though if you're unable to physically hold a book and read it. Or, perhaps you've got some literacy issues.  What are the other options? With the advent of tablet computers and smartphones it's never been easier to read electronic publications.

Now I have to say that I'm a bit old fashioned and actually like reading books as opposed to reading electronic publications. But last year I joined the real world and bought myself an e-book reader. It's cheap but it does what I want it to do.

Hang on a miniute though.  Some of you might have issues with the smaller size of the print on an e-book reader. No problem. On most if not all devices you can change the size of text so if you have a visual impairment you can change the size of the print. If you need text to be different colours you can make that simple change too.  If you find changing the background colour to be useful you can easily do that if you need to.

Everyone knows that if you have dyslexia, reading can be difficult.  No problem if you have the facility to convert that text into speech. You can listen to your book being read out.  Just remember to plug those earphones in so you don't annoy anyone!

We've written a factsheet all about electronic publications. It's available from our website:

How can we help?

AbilityNet helps disabled people use computers and the internet at work, at home and in education. There are a few ways that we can help:

  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.
  • Arrange a home visit. We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. 
  • My Computer My Way. A list of free hints and tips that you can use to make your time on the computer that bit easier.


Travel industry failing elderly and disabled: New Report

Sun, sea and sand are in short supply this summer for disabled and elderly people trying to research and book their holidays online, according to our new survey. A decade after we first reviewed the country’s top airlines for website accessibility and usability, it appears that little if anything has improved, despite huge advances in technology and provision for disabled people in general.

Of the top twelve carriers and holiday companies sampled - British Airways, Carnival, Club Med, easyJet, First Choice, Monarch, Qantas, RyanAir, Saga, STA Travel, Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic – just one met the base level of access requirements needed to research travel and accommodation options and make flight or holiday reservations.

The tester panel attempted to carry out typical real life tasks using the most commonly encountered access technologies. These include magnification software and screen readers or text to speech software for the visually impaired and people with dyslexia, and for those with physical difficulties, using the keyboard instead of the mouse to navigate the screen. Other testers had hearing and dexterity issues common amongst older customers.

The report’s author, Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s Head of Digital Inclusion who is himself blind, said:

“The challenges of researching and booking holidays can present a double bind to the country’s 12 million disabled people and 10 million over 65s, who are increasingly subject to age related conditions like hearing loss, macular degeneration and arthritis

“Whilst internet shopping and research extends consumer choice immeasurably (particularly because many operators only sell their products online) many would-be holiday makers find that they are losing out due to badly designed web pages that prevent them from shopping around and finding the best deals on flights and bargain breaks.”

Download the full eNation report.

Are you missing a market the size of China? Free webinar

At least 1.1 billion people globally have a disability, controlling over $4 trillion annually – a market the size of China. Whatever your niche in the global travel business that’s a big slice of potential revenue that can’t be overlooked. AbilityNet is running a free webinar with travel industry website tnooz to review the accessibility of travel websites and offer some tips on how to reach those missing customers.

  • Free webinar: Digital accessibility in the travel industry
  • 4-5pm BST, Thursday 7th August.

View the recording of this webinar for free now.

tnooz - talking travel techMany travel businesses are doing what they can to accommodate disabled people at their destination, and every carrier is geared up for disabled travellers. Many businesses know about the legal risk of not having an accessible website but don't think about the commercial implications if potential customers are unable to book their travel online.

Our accessibility consultants have reviewed a cross-section of websites from the industry and in this webinar we will explore the results of the tests, the size and shape of the marketplace and lessons to be learned by everyone in the travel sector. This webinar is delivered with leading travel industry site Tnooz and will be of interest to marketing and commercial directors in any sector.

The panellists for the webinar are:

  • Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet
  • Kevin May, editor and moderator, Tnooz
  • Gene Quinn, CEO and producer, Tnooz

Download our State of the e-nation report about Travel and Tourism websites

View the recording of this webinar for free now.

Tech4Good Awards 2014: Winners Announced

This year's Tech4Good Awards winners were announced by double gold-medal winning Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE at a glittering Awards Ceremony at BT Centre. The Awards, which are organised by Abilitynet and BT, recognise the amazing people who use computers and the internet to make the world a better place. Nine Awards were announced, including a very special Judges' Award for Jimmy Wales, cofounder of Wikipedia.

Tech4Good Awards Winners and sponsors with Awards host Hannah Cockroft MBE

The winners of the Tech4Good Awards 2014 are:

  • Accessibility Award: SpecialEffect
  • BT Ingenious Award: Buffalo Grid
  • Community Impact Award: WIMPS (Where Is My Public Servant)
  • Digital Health Award: PEEK
  • Digital Skills Award: UCanDoIT
  • IT Volunteer of the Year Award: Craig Oxley-Brookes
  • Tech4Good Youth Award: Ryan McMurdo
  • Tech4Good People’s Award: UCanDoIT
  • Judges’ Special Award: Jimmy Wales
  • Winner of Winners Award: SpecialEffect 

Congratulations to all of this year’s fantastic winners, finalists and nominees. 

Find out more about all the winners at the Tech4Good Awards website

Tech4Good Awards


Free help to make your computer system work for you

I've just done a webinar on a subject that's close to our hearts at AbilityNet, which "How to change your computer accessibility settings without spending money". It was a great success. After all, no-one likes spending money if they don't have to, do they?

I always try to refer people to My Computer My Way as it gives you easy step by step advice on what to do. It's our flagship resource that we like to shout about!

Need help with slowing down the keyboard response rate? Need help adding tails to your mouse cursor to make it easy to see? You can do all this and more at My Computer My Way.

My Computer My WayHang on moment! What if you have a mobile device or an Ipad or an Android device?  No problems, My Computer My Way covers the latest systems for all Apple, Android and Windows devices. 

It's your computer. You can change it so it meets your requirements. Our detailed guidance will give you the appropriate skills to change the way that your computer works, just for you. 

Find out more:

Alex Barker, Advice and Information Officer

Are you eligible for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)?

Many of the the thousands of students heading off to university and college could be eligible for a grant to help them with their disabilities. Although many disabled people will already know about these grants there could be many others who are eligible but don't consider themselves to be disabled, such as people with dyslexia, who would benefit from this extra help.

You don't have to be registered as disabled to claim DSAs. IAre you eligible for disabled students' allowances?f you have UK student status and have a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition or a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia you may be eligible for a grant that covers the cost of extra equipment and learning support. For example, DSAs can currently help pay for:

  • specialist equipment you need for studying, such as a book scanner or digital voice recorder
  • specialist software, such as text to speech, speech to text or mind mapping
  • non-medical helpers, such as a note-taker or reader
  • extra travel costs you have to pay because of your disability
  • additional accommodation costs you have to pay because of your disability
  • other costs such as photocopying or printer cartridges

DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package, or on their own, and do not need to be repaid.

Staff at AbilityNet's DSA assessment centres can help you with the application, including checking your eligibility. If you are eligible they can then carry out an assessment at one of our centres and recommend specific solutions to meet your needs.

For more help please call 01962 815 012 or visit

Free Webinar: SEO and Accessibility

AbilityNet recently ran a webinar with an SEO expert from a leading digital marketing agency to explore the connections between SEO and accessibility. The highly practical session offered top tips on getting SEO dividends from accessible websites and other digital content and is available now to view again in our webinar archive.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and accessibility are commonly understood concepts for anyone involved in web development, ecommerce or marketing. For many SEO is seen as an essential function for any business but accessibility is often viewed as ‘nice to have’, or worse an inconvenience - a legal tick box. Few people realise that paying attention to accessibility can deliver real SEO dividends: SEO brings more traffic to your website; accessibility is about opening your website up to the widest possible audience. 

How accessibility can help with SEO

A key part of the process of optimising for accessibility is ensuring that your content is well crafted and properly tagged, which are also essential when optimising for search engines. Since Google and its fellow search engines focus on delivering the best results for users, tagged, crafted content will win every time with search engine bots. Given that the two fields share such fundamental aspects, just how much can optimising your website for accessibility deliver better SEO results?

In the first instance, opening your website up to a wider audience who otherwise might not be able to fully access your content increases the traffic moving through the site, thereby helping improve the authority of your site on search engines. By opening up for this audience you also increase potential for your content to be shared on social media and for backlinks to your site, both of which can be enormously effective in boosting your pages in search engine rankings.

Ask the experts 

AbilityNet’s Head of Digital Inclusion Robin Christopherson is an expert in web accessibility and a firm advocate of the position that optimising your website for accessibility can go a long way towards helping to optimise the site for search engines.

We asked Robin and special guest Gerry White from leading SEO agency SiteVisibility to discuss the links between SEO and accessibility with real-life examples to show the many ways that the two fields are interlinked.

Watch the webinar and view the slideshow.

AbilityNet wins Digital Leaders Award

AbilityNet has won the best NGO Category in the Digital Leaders 100 Award 2014 and was placed second in the overall rankings, just behind our patron Baroness Martha Lane Fox. The photo shows AbilityNet's Dennis Dearden receiving the NGO Award from Chi Onuwrah MP and comedian Richard Herring at the Awards Ceremony that took place in London in June.

AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis said:

"Considering the competition and the short list of 100 companies and people, AbilityNet has achieved a fantastic result. We feel incredibly proud of what we have achieved, beating off some really strong competition and other major charities, commercial and public sector organisations."

FInd out more about the Awards on the Digital Leaders website.

Abilitynet's Dennis Dearden receives the NGO Digital Leaders Award 2014 form Chi Onuwrah MP