Recent data, as stated by Canada’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan, revealed that 6.2 million people were living with at least one disability. Disabilities range from mild to severe, and they impact how someone lives day to day.
While most think about how disabilities influence a person’s ability to navigate the physical world, it’s just as critical to acknowledge how they affect one’s ability to engage with the digital realm.
This is especially important for businesses. Adhering to web accessibility standards allows individuals with various disabilities to engage with their online content and platforms. Not only that, but prioritizing web accessibility can also aid an integral part of your marketing strategy–search engine optimization (SEO).
To learn more about how that can be possible, keep reading this blog.
Understanding Web Accessibility
Unfortunately, inequality exists in our world and affects specific demographic groups more than others. This also includes the lack of support for individuals living with various disabilities.
Although we have a long way to go, digitalization has become a great equalizer as it has allowed people to more fully participate in society regardless of their background, ability, or experience.
For example, thanks to increased connectivity, individuals who may need to remain in their homes due to a mental or physical disability can now pursue education online through the help of high-speed internet and online education platforms. Telehealth services are also more widely available, allowing people to take advantage of remote doctor’s appointments. In addition, they can order prescriptions, schedule appointments, and view lab results online.
Finally, the increasing accessibility of websites and other online platforms facilitates equal access to all groups of people. But the key to digitalization being as impactful as it can be is strict adherence to web accessibility standards. When web accessibility is a priority, individuals with disabilities can use websites and participate in online communities more fully.
Physical disabilities can present significant challenges for a person trying to get online, let alone navigate it freely.
For example, arthritis is a common physical disability. People experiencing it can have chronic pain and deformities. Having it in your hands, arms, or upper body can make it difficult to cup a mouse or use a keyboard.
Voice search and navigation make it possible for individuals living with arthritis and other physical disabilities, like tremors, paralysis, or amputation, to engage with digital platforms and content.
357,000 Canadians are culturally deaf, while 3.21 million are hard of hearing, according to data from the Canadian Association of the Deaf. It must be disheartening for these individuals to go to videos and other audio content online, only to find out there aren’t any captions.
Captions allow individuals with auditory disabilities to fully enjoy video and audio content.
Like auditory disabilities, hundreds of thousands of people are living with blindness, partial blindness, or other visual disability like colour blindness, loss of peripheral vision, Glaucoma, or cataracts.
So many sites fail to account for visual impairments. They also don’t realize how many people they’re excluding from enjoying their online content because of it. Ensuring compatibility with screen readers, enabling audio, and being mindful of colour usage is especially helpful in this regard.
Neurodiversity refers to the differing ways in which our brains work. You’re considered neurodiverse if you live with a condition under the neurodiverse umbrella, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia.
Allowing users to control audio, using predictable navigation, and limited animation use help a significant percentage of people living with a neurodiverse condition engage online.
The Intersection of Web Accessibility and SEO
We see how web accessibility can impact the overall experience for people online. But what’s its connection with SEO? Well, SEO is about improving your website and content so that it shows up high on search engine rankings pages.
There are various things you can do to improve your site and content for better search engine visibility. However, one of the most important is prioritizing accessibility.
When a site is accessible, it’s typically simple to use and understand. You can navigate it easily and get to the content you need when you need it. Every piece of content is digestible. And your design isn’t overcrowded with words, images, animation, ads, and other visuals.
This simplicity makes it easy for search engines to crawl your website, note its relevance to specific queries, and rank it.
In addition, an accessible web design makes for better engagement. When people come across content they enjoy, they’re more likely to comment on it, link to it, and share it. If a site is easy to use and helpful, they’ll be more likely to return to it.
Search engines look for sites with high engagement. When people continuously share and interact with your content and high-quality sites are linking to it, this signifies to search engines that your site is reputable and trustworthy, thus resulting in a higher ranking.
When web accessibility is lacking, your SEO efforts won’t be nearly as impactful as they can be.
Implementing Web Accessibility to Enhance Your SEO Efforts
You’re ready to reach more people, accommodate the needs of those living with various disabilities more intently and, in turn, improve your SEO efforts with better web accessibility. But how exactly do you make your site more accessible?
Best practices for complying with accessibility standards on the web include:
- Accommodating assistive technologies
- Focusing on user-friendly designs
- Using alt text, captions, and transcriptions
- Making navigation as simple as possible
Let’s look at each of these in more detail below:
Accommodate Assistive Technologies
According to the World Health Organization, more than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products. Examples of these types of technologies include:
- Screen readers
- Braille displays
- Voice recognition
- Specialized keyboards
- Screen magnifiers
- Prosthetic devices
- Reading pens
You may not be able to accommodate every piece of assistive technology. However, you should strive to accommodate as many as possible. Start with ensuring your site is compatible with screen readers and magnifiers, and that voice recognition software is available. Then, move on to more complex assistive devices, like incorporating refreshable braille displays and connecting to specialized keyboards.
Working with your website developer is the best course of action to ensure your site can accommodate assistive technologies. Let them know which devices you want to accommodate, and they’ll help you develop a plan for making it happen.
If you used a website builder, contact the customer service department to find out more about how you can accommodate assistive devices.
Focus on User-friendly Designs
One of the most important aspects of web accessibility is the design you use on your site. It needs to be user-friendly and simple for it to be accessible to as many people as possible, including those living with disabilities.
Simple and user-friendly doesn’t have to mean boring. You can incorporate things like bold colour schemes and animation. But you must be mindful of how you do it and how what you incorporate may affect the experience of individuals living with conditions like autism, ADHD, and colour blindness.
For example, let’s say you want to use an animated banner on your homepage. Somehow warning visitors that animation is about to show up on the screen will help sensory-sensitive individuals prepare.
You also want to ensure the animation serves a purpose. For instance, your call-to-action (CTA) button could pulsate to draw visitors’ attention to it and persuade them to click.
Your website and page designs should latch on to simplicity. But incorporating elements that make your pages stand out is okay too, so long as you find an appropriate balance.
Use Alt Text, Captions, and Transcriptions
Your web accessibility efforts would be incomplete without the use of alt text, captions, and transcriptions. Not only do these elements make your visual content accessible to those with hearing and visual impairments, but they also give search engines more written content to crawl to determine relevance and site quality.
Provide alternative text for every image and piece of multimedia content. Alt text should be long enough to describe what’s happening accurately, but not too long. In addition to alt text, use captions and transcriptions for audio and video content.
You can create the captions or transcriptions yourself. You can also use caption and transcription creation tools to fast-track the process. Be sure to edit and proofread your captions and transcriptions thoroughly before using them, no matter the path you take.
Make Navigation as Simple as Possible
Simple navigation is in the top three when it comes to website accessibility. A site navigation structure that’s confusing is essentially inaccessible. People who aren’t living with a disability won’t be able to find what they’re looking for when they need it, let alone those living with a disability.
On the other hand, a simple navigation structure that’s easy to follow and meets expectations is accessible. People of all abilities and backgrounds can find what they need when they need it, thus fueling a good user experience.
When approaching navigation, first think about what your visitors expect. For instance, more people might expect the menu to span across the top of your website below the fold and not necessarily for it to be in a dropdown menu on the right side of the home page.
Put your menu somewhere visitors expect. Then, keep that menu simple with solely primary links, like those to your product catalogue, about us, blogs, and contact pages. Keeping your menu below seven links is ideal.
Lastly, ensure visitors can access your site pages and content in various ways. This means enabling keyboard navigation and voice search, in addition to ensuring they can get to things with their mouse.
Website accessibility provides a good user experience on your site for visitors living with and without disabilities. In addition to its impact on the entire user experience, website accessibility can positively influence SEO.
Making your site and content simple to get to and enjoy fuels engagement, which signifies to search engines your site’s credibility and value. Simplicity and user-friendly elements also make your site easier to crawl and determine relevance and quality, hopefully resulting in a high ranking on search engine results pages.
Accommodate assistive technologies, focus on user-friendly design, use alt text, captions, and transcriptions, and ensure navigation is as simple as possible to better web accessibility on your site and enhance your SEO efforts.
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