The importance of accessibility

Try this experiment: close your eyes, and then read the rest of this post. Tricky, isn’t it? OK, open your eyes again. I said, open your eyes again. Oh, never mind.

This is how a proportion of the population use the web all the time, and not just for a daft experiment. The information and interactivity of the web (excluding lolcats) is useful to all, not just for those who are fully able. All the wonderful (and not so wonderful) functions that the internet now provides mean that we rely on it more than ever.

For example, finding out when our bins are being collected, or the time of the last train home, or which flavour of soup your friend on the other side of the world is having for lunch. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is all very useful stuff. If you were told that you couldn’t have these or other online gems, you would quite rightly feel indignant, maybe even angry.

I don’t want to upset anyone (despite appearances on Monday mornings), and I’m sure you feel the same. We are considerate people: we offer our seat on the train to someone who needs it more than us, we hold the door open for others, we offer free back-rubs to our fellow passengers on the tube.

All of this takes effort, and no-one ever said being nice was easy, but we go the extra mile anyway. Why? Because it gives us warm fuzzies when we help others. It’s just the same on our websites; we’re holding the door open for everyone.

I am not alone in my lofty ideals, the government agrees with me, and they insist that everyone else agrees too. Who would argue with that?

We talk about them in hushed tones round these parts, but some would. They claim that it’s extra cost for little return, but they’re just plain wrong. Modern technologies have been built with accessibility at the core, so the effort involved has been reduced greatly from what it was ten years ago.

Also, good website developers (I modestly include myself in this set) have accessibility in the back of their minds as they code, so it is incorporated into the foundations of the website. Finally, there are millions of potential customers out there who benefit, so the returns aren’t to be sniffed at.

We make our websites accessible not just because we have to, but also because we want to.

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Thomas Coles co-founded MSM in 1998 and is the largest shareholder with 44.7%. His key achievements so far include growth from 2 to 40 FTE; high levels of customer satisfaction and retention, as well as surviving the sector downturn from 2001-2003 and growing the business in the 2008-2009 recession. Thomas’ business acumen was apparent from a young age. As a child (aged 8) he was already budgeting his pocket money on a spreadsheet. His passion for technology was also evident, as, aged 10 he was writing programmes for his Amstrad. Thomas started the MSM business soon after graduating with his father, who remains a non-executive director today. A strong believer in applying common sense to any situation, Thomas says his objective is to continue to be criticised for being too honest. Away from the office Thomas enjoys family life with his wife and three children and likes to take part in half marathons, going to the gym and watching Formula 1 motor racing. Thomas is also a trustee of a local charity.