The Importance of Web Accessibility (and What You Must Know)
Have you considered how web accessibility can affect your site? At first, this topic might only seem like the purview of a detail-obsessed web design agency, not marketers in general. In fact, however, accessibility is something to prioritize if you wish to maximize the impact of your marketing efforts.
We’re going to lay out what accessibility is all about and discuss the reasons you should be paying attention. We’ll also dive into some tips that will help you develop an “accessibility-focused mindset” and how you can make your own site more web accessible for all.
First things first, we should define what we mean by web accessibility. The term refers to making the internet and associated tools accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Specifically, the Web Accessibility Initiative adds, those with disabilities should be able to “perceive, understand, and interact with the web,” and should also be able to “contribute to the web” in a manner that is meaningful.
When speaking of which individuals fall under the umbrella of “disabled,” the net is cast quite wide. Web accessibility encompasses those with temporary, conditional, and even permanent disabilities, whose impairments may be auditory, cognitive, physical, visual, or speech-related in nature.
Improving web accessibility enhances the user experience for said individuals. While the motivations behind prioritizing accessibility may range from altruistic (improving the lives of people with disabilities) to selfish (avoiding negative public blowback), the end-goal of opening the internet to a broader user base remains the same.
The Value of Accessibility for Marketers
From a marketing perspective, both altruistic and selfish concerns may come into play, but one motivation for focusing on web accessibility eclipses all others: to create a wider audience and, thusly, a greater pool of potential customers.
Roughly 2% of Americans aged 16 and older have a visual impairment. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 40 million Americans, about 12.6% of the population, have some form of disability. That’s a large number, and focusing on making your website accessible to these individuals represents a vast potential for expanding the reach of your brand.
And the benefits of improving web accessibility extend even further, to potential customers without disabilities as well. Imagine, for a moment, older users who might not have a disability, but whose abilities have declined due to age. Making your site easier for those with disabilities to use will also make it easier for the elderly to use.
Earlier, we touched upon those with temporary disabilities and situational limitations which might include a broken limb or being in an area in which they can’t listen to audio. Improving your website so that it’s easier to navigate and visitors can understand your message without the need for audio opens the door to these users as well.
Then there are mobile users. They represent half of the world’s web traffic, but in some cases may be using devices with limited capabilities. Again, catering to this subset of visitors boosts your chances of being heard — the goal of any marketer worth their salt.
Improving web accessibility also goes hand in hand with improving SEO. Search engines aren’t so great at parsing graphics and tend to favor easy-to-navigate pages. Making your pages easy to understand without their graphical elements and easy to navigate under all circumstances benefits web accessibility while simultaneously granting a boost to your optimization efforts.
Putting the Focus on Accessibility
With all that being said, how can you put the focus on web accessibility for your site? There are dozens of improvements you can make, but we’ll focus on a few of the most common today:
Using Alt-Tags — You can use alt-tags to provide “alternative information for an image if a user cannot view it.” This is an obvious benefit for the visually impaired, but also impacts SEO by improving the search engine rankings for e-commerce sites with product photos and the like.
Improving Keyboard Navigation — Ensuring that users can navigate site with just their keyboards helps improve accessibility for those with screen readers. Be sure not to hamper their ability by requiring mouse inputs to get around your site.
Watching HTML Tags and Title Tags — Taking screen readers into account again, you should take care not to alter any default HTML tags such as tables and headers. Doing so might confuse screen readers and make them incompatible with your site.
Including Closed Captions — For users who may not be able to interpret audio elements normally, closed captions (and text transcripts) will make it possible for them to understand your multimedia content. In addition, these elements will improve SEO by making it easier for search engines to index your content.
These are but a few of the improvements you can employ. You can learn more about making web accessibility enhancements by studying both 508 Compliance Standards and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. They help maintain recommendations and best practices for improving accessibility across the internet.
It might seem like a time-consuming process, but you should keep in mind that improving web accessibility can only help your site and expand your potential audience. We can help evaluate your current levels of accessibility, and to help improve your web accessibility down the road.