The number of websites being sued over non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is rapidly rising this year. A slew of well-known websites, from Beyoncé’s to Playboy’s, have been sued in recent months over lack of accessibility for people with physical or cognitive disabilities.
The issue is not affecting just the U.S., but Australian and British websites as well. The situation presents a dilemma for site owners: how can a brand make a website both compliant and SEO friendly? Is it even possible to optimise accessibility components on a site for search engines? Read ahead to find answers to these questions.
What is Accessibility and Why Could It Lead to Lawsuits?
Accessibility is a surprisingly simple term. It refers to making a website, at least in part, comprehensible to people with some forms of disabilities, such as visual impairment or minimal hearing. In the U.S., an inaccessible website could be considered a violation of the ADA, intended to make information available to everyone. Australia, too, has lows to make information accessible to people with disabilities. However, there aren’t any specific ones directly aimed at websites.
Companies with websites designed without much thought to accessibility could face lawsuits, just like Beyoncé. Aussie companies with websites aimed at U.S. customers could be especially vulnerable.
Under Australian law, there are certain types of information that must be accessible to everyone. Particularly, information provided by utility companies, insurance agents, and banks must be comprehendible even to people with cognitive disabilities. If a business works in these areas and has a website without accessibility features, then a disabled user might be able to sue. It should be noted that the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) in recent years has taken steps to make websites more accessible to disabled users.
How Can a Website be Disability Friendly?
So how exactly can websites filled with text, images, and audio be made viewable to a user with a disability like visual impairment? Perhaps a better question would be, how can a website be unusable to people with disabilities?
If your website presents information in a complex and cluttered manner, it could be very difficult for a user with a disability to navigate it. For the visually impaired, a website can provide auditory instructions for easy navigation. Visual cues are helpful for those with auditory disabilities.
Websites can be made easy to use for those with cognitive disabilities as well. The ACCAN recommends making websites easy to read with clear and simple language to make it more accessible. In addition, web developers can provide tools that disabled users can get help from.
Accessibility is Not a Challenge to SEO! Here’s why:
Most site owners, developers, and brands face challenges in making websites more disability friendly. This is largely due to ignorance regarding the issue. On a more pressing matter, site owners may be reluctant to add accessibility features believing it would affect SEO potential. In reality, accessibility is not a challenge to SEO. Rather, accessibility features could even improve SEO prospects.
For example, consider making text on a website simple and easy to understand for disabled users. This has a positive effect on SEO as well because it makes it easy for the search engine to understand the text as well. It’s relatively simple to insert keywords and phrases into easy-to-read text.
Specialized digital marketing agencies, like Shout SEO Agency in Australia, could help businesses develop SEO strategies that boost accessibility, and vice versa. Read the section below for suggestions on how to simultaneously optimise your website for search engines as well as disabled users.
Tips for Optimising Accessibility Features of a Website
There are general steps a developer can take to make a website more disability-friendly. These steps are not prohibitively expensive either. Here are the suggestions:
Add Alt Tags
Alt tags are words included in a webpage that is read aloud by screen reader’s people with visual impairments use. They pop up when you mouse over a site image.
Most site developers don’t add alt tags, but you should improve accessibility. Alt tags should describe an image accurately. It’s also a great opportunity to collect keywords or phrases to boost SEO. You can use keywords in alt tags for better SEO performance.
Provide Transcripts for Videos
Transcripts make it possible for people with auditory or visual impairments to understand the content in videos. This is one of the easiest ways to make video accessible. Sites like YouTube even provide the tools for doing this.
On the other hand, transcripts are a great SEO tool as well. Savvy brands use transcription to include keywords that search engines eventually pick up. Transcribing can be time-consuming, but it’s a great way to improve the searchability of a video.
Abbreviate with Periods
Use American-style abbreviation in all website text. For example, type in the U.S. instead of the US. Screen readers don’t recognize abbreviations without the periods in between. Search engines don’t make that distinction, but it could prevent misrecognition and improve chances of the algorithm understanding your text accurately.
Add Title Headlines
The title of the content is what a screen reader notices first, and so do search engines. Therefore, take time to add a keyword-optimised unique title to all your websites for better accessibility and optimisation.
The above are just simple tips business site owners can use to improve the accessibility of a website. As you can see, when you improve accessibility, the SEO potential improves as well.
Accessibility is not a touching concept to understand. But some marketing teams might be new to the concept. Therefore, if possible, get expert help to come up with a comprehensive plan to improve accessibility and SEO of your website at the same time.