With the availability of computers at an all-time high, accessibility has become more important than ever. Most people have access to a computer, and, naturally, that means that a large number of people with a wide variety of different disabilities and needs also have access to those computers. Designers today must take accessibility into consideration so that the sites and products they design can be used by as many people as possible.
Jim Byrne attempted to define “an accessible website” in an article on the Guild of Accessible Web Designers site, and his definition boiled down to this:
An accessible website communicates effectively with the computer first, so that the site renders completely, accurately and efficiently; it then strives for the greatest possible usability by the largest possible population.
I think Byrne has a great point. I certainly aim for accessibility to larger numbers of people in my own designs, but I think it’s important that the design is accessible first to the devices the audience is using. Without that foundation, the site may not function as intended, or the content may not load properly, and even a user who can fluently read the site’s primary language and has no disabilities to speak of will struggle to access the page.