There may be no clear correlation between accessibility and ranking when it comes to websites. Nevertheless, your SEO efforts will suffer if you drive traffic to a website but individuals with impairments are unable to view and interact with the complete site. In the United States alone, there are about 61 million people with impairments. So it’s likely that increased website accessibility will be advantageous for a large portion of your target audience.
Additionally, noncompliance with official accessibility standards could result in legal action that could shut down your online business as more nations around the world make website accessibility a legal necessity. We will examine the value of website accessibility in this post, as well as how it can benefit your SEO efforts and what you can do to make sure your site complies with the most recent accessibility guidelines.
What justifies ADA compliance?
Making sure a website is accessible to everyone in the modern world has to be standard procedure. There is no good excuse not to prioritise website accessibility, particularly for major organisations with teams of engineers and SEOs working together. Here are some of the main reasons for making sure your website is accessible:
Allowing individuals to live without restrictions- If we remember back to the period of COVID-19, when we were all trapped in our houses for months on end, many of us lived our daily lives online. Attending Zoom classes, ordering groceries, or paying bills are all examples. Many of us take for granted being able to easily access the things we need during a crisis. However, having equal access to public services online can have a substantial impact on someone with a disability’s quality of life. If you are unable to leave your home or access websites that allow you to order food, pay a bill, or use a government service such as voting, you may be unable to live a regular life. Not to mention the fact that it can be really stressful.
Websites that are easy to use are beneficial to businesses- One advantage of better website accessibility is that it is simply beneficial to business. After all, more visitors to your website might lead to more leads and purchases.
Most countries make web accessibility a legal obligation- The Americans with Disabilities Act is only the accessibility law that applies to the United States. There are various international regulations governing accessibility that apply outside of the United States.From Israel’s Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act to Taiwan’s Web Accessibility Guidelines, 40 countries require that your website be accessible. The European Union is currently drafting a proposed European Accessibility Act. Making sure your website conforms with local standards can help you avoid legal trouble.
What exactly is the WCAG?
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are rules that provide direction on how to make all parts of website features and web applications accessible. The WCAG 2.1 rules, which were introduced in June 2018, are now in use and are designed for:
- Web content creators (page authors, site designers, and so on).
- Developers of web authoring tools.
- Creators of web accessibility assessment tools.
- Others that want or require a standard for web and mobile accessibility.
The WCAG 2.2 standards are currently in the works and will not be completed until April 2023. Despite this, WCAG 3.0 has already been drafted, however it will not be made public for some time.
However, staying up to date on the most recent revisions of the WCAG regulations and keeping track of any planned changes or additions will help you ensure your website continues to meet accessibility standards. The WCAG is broken into three compliance levels. Each level is determined by how they affect the design or appearance of the pages in order to fulfil the needs of various individuals and scenarios. Let’s go over the fundamentals of the three levels of compliance and what they entail:
1. Level A
This is the simplest and most straightforward level of compliance to achieve. Level A does not provide a wide range of accessibility and instead establishes an absolute minimum level of accessibility.Some prominent WCAG 2.0 Level A requirements are as follows:
- Keyboard traps are not permitted.
- Navigation via using the keyboard
- Text content alternatives
- Including captions in videos
- Colour should be used exclusively to express an action, elicit a response, or convey information.
2. Level AA
This level is typically adopted or negotiated as a goal conformity level in regulations or legal settlements. It establishes a standard of accessibility for all users, including those who use assistive technology. WCAG 2.0 Level AA criteria include the following:
- A minimum contrast of 4.5:1 (3.1 in the case of huge text) is recommended.
- Alt text must be used for photos that carry meaning.
- No or minimal background audio
- The navigation on the site is constant throughout.
- Clearly labelled form fields
- Logically organised headings
3. Level AAA
At this conformity level, which is the highest achievable, all three success criteria are met. Full AAA compliance is not possible if some content does not meet all Level AAA Success Criteria.The following are some important WCAG 2.0 AAA requirements:
- Interpretation in sign language for video or audio
- A colour contrast of at least 7:1 is required.
- Any activity must not be timed.
- Users can receive context-sensitive assistance.
- Only pre-recorded audio content should have a low or no background audio.
Although Level AA compliance criteria are considered appropriate, ensuring that your website conforms with Level AAA will help you maintain accessibility standards in the future and keep your website accessible to everyone.
Why is WCAG compliance important?
WCAG compliance is the most effective strategy for digital marketers to verify they are in line with local accessibility rules and avoid legal ramifications. WCAG-compliant websites should, in general, have a clear aim, fast loading times, straightforward navigation, and user-friendly language.These are all important parts of UX design that help search engine users find the information they need. You should optimise your website’s UX to give customers the best experience possible.
Every organisation, from major enterprises to startups, should endeavour to be legally compliant and have WCAG-compliant websites.According to the UN, “access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, is defined as a basic human right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” Because of the detrimental impact of inaccessible websites, many disabled persons lose their capacity to conduct things that many people take for granted, such as managing their accounts, finding work, or accessing the internet in general.
Where SEO meets accessibility
As previously stated, website accessibility is not a ranking criteria. However, accessibility difficulties have an impact on the user experience. We know this is critical to Google based on the Page Experience Update in March 2022. Furthermore, because many of the factors that cause accessibility concerns are also factors we look at to improve technical SEO health, there is a substantial amount of overlap between the two.
Navigation- Both accessibility and SEO benefit from effective navigation. When the navigation is basic and plain, people with impairments can use websites more readily. Well-organised navigation can also help crawlers grasp a website’s content and structure, thereby improving a website’s position in the SERPs. Depending on the content of the page, navigational components such as links and breadcrumbs may be added.
The WCAG requires consistent navigation at level AA. That is, repeating the same elements throughout the site.This can involve including a “skip to content” button at the top of each page (similar to a “skip to recipe” button on a food blog) and making sure menus and submenus are in the same places on each page. A navigation element labelled “breadcrumb” identifies the structure as a breadcrumb trail and marks it as a navigation marker to make it easy to find. It allows users to navigate where they are on a website and how far they are from the homepage. It appears to be as follows:
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Breadcrumbs also assist search engines in navigating and categorising a website’s pages. Breadcrumbs are also displayed in Google search results.
Sitemaps- Sitemaps aid in the navigation of your website by both visitors and search engines. Sitemaps make it easier for users with impairments to discover the pages they need to access.According to the World Wide Web Consortium:
The sitemap has numerous functions.
- It gives a general summary of the site.
- It assists users in understanding what is on the site and how the content is organised.
- It provides an alternative to complex navigation bars that may differ depending on where you are on the site.
Headings and titles- When a page initially loads, screen readers use title tags to provide users with an overview of its content. They also provide page summaries and encourage visitors to navigate through tabs and search engine results. By using headers correctly, you can make your material easier to read for screen reader users. Use the appropriate header tags. When utilizing cascading headers, a logical hierarchy should be observed, with H1s appearing before H2s, H3s appearing after H2s, and so on. The structure of the content is then easily understood by both visitors and search engines.
Internal links- Anchor text is clickable text that is used to create links to other websites. Users must know what to expect when they click a link. A precise description is required for accessibility. The anchor text can be used by search engines to evaluate the content of a linked website. Anchor text helps you grasp the structure, page layout, and keywords of a website.
Alternate text- Screen readers can understand what a picture means by using alt text. Furthermore, alt text assists search engines in understanding the content of photographs, enhancing a page’s SEO and allowing images to show in image results pages, which can drive traffic to your website.
How to perform website accessibility testing
You must be able to conduct an accessibility audit in order to make your website accessible. There are various tools that indicate which SEO aspects may be altered to make your site more accessible if you want to undertake a full accessibility audit so you can refer accessibility-specific issues to a developer.
Use the Accessibility Checker to assess your accessibility– Begin by visiting the Accessibility Checker. Enter the URL of the website you want to audit and the country you want to comply with. After that, it will take roughly 30 seconds to run the audit and display the results. It will outline any important difficulties and how to resolve them. You may also save the report to work on later or email it to a developer.
Use Google Lighthouse to check for accessibility- Google Lighthouse checks a site’s accessibility and Core Web Vitals in addition to security and SEO.Two accessibility requirements are page titles and the colour contrast between the backdrop and the foreground. The title tags, link names, and viewport scalability are also included. Some Lighthouse Accessibility requirements that cannot be assessed automatically can be checked manually. Lighthouse can be utilised in a variety of ways, including as a free Google Chrome plugin that can be used by both technical and non-technical users. A Google Lighthouse – accessibility audit can be accessed immediately in Google Chrome by right-clicking the page and selecting “Inspect” or hitting F12 on your keyboard. Navigate to the “Lighthouse” tab in the developer tools window. Change your Lighthouse preferences to audit only “Accessibility” and then “Analyse page load.” After that, Lighthouse will assess the page and provide you with a score out of 100 as well as a list of concerns.
Website accessibility is not just a legal necessity, but it is also a critical component in ensuring that persons with disabilities may live normal lives. As SEOs, we can help to increase accessibility by ensuring that technical and on-page accessibility features are appropriately introduced and maintained. By doing so, you can increase your business’ ROI by ensuring their website is accessible to every possible customer and protect them from an accessibility lawsuit.