Accessibility can have an impact on SEO, in this article we’ll dive into the details of web accessibility and how making improvements to your accessibility can have a positive impact on your search rankings. 

But first, let’s cover these two terms to be clear about what we mean by SEO and Accessibility.

What Is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility refers to websites and other technology that are designed in a way that people with disabilities can use them. 

Examples of people that web accessibility can help are those with vision and or hearing impairment, those who are blind, deaf, have a physical disability or a learning difficulty.  

What Is SEO?

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process of optimising a website to appear higher in search engines for given search terms.

SEO helps your web pages get found by more people, as websites that appear at the top of the search engines get more clicks.

Hands holding a sign that says SEO

Why Should We Care About Web Accessibility?

There are numerous reasons why we should prioritise web accessibility, including the following:

1. It’s The Ethical Thing To Do

For one, it’s simply the ethical thing to do. Imagine someone who has a disability and requires your product, service, or the information on your website, but can’t access it due to a lack of accessibility features. This would be a frustrating experience, and they would most likely abandon your website altogether.

2. We’re In This Together

Moreover, as we all age, it’s likely that we will experience some form of disability or know someone who does. Whether it’s a need for glasses, hearing loss or developing a medical condition like Parkinson’s that affects coordination and vision, accessibility becomes increasingly important.

Given these potential scenarios, it’s important to consider accessibility to ensure that everyone has equal access to information and services online.

3. One In 6 People Have A Disability

You may be surprised at the number of people who have accessibility requirements.

In Australia, about 3.6 million people have some level of hearing loss.

In Australia, about 3.6 million people have some level of hearing loss

It is estimated that over 13 million Australians have one or more chronic (long-term) eye conditions, according to self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

It is estimated that over 13 million Australians have one or more chronic (long-term) eye conditions

An estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disabilities. This represents 16% of the world’s population or 1 in 6 of us.

An estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disabilities.

4. The Economic Cost

Online retailers and service providers are losing money because visitors with disabilities can’t use their websites.

In 2019, a company called Click-Away pound conducted a survey in the UK, they found that three-quarters of disabled online consumers will click away from websites that they find difficult to use.

The economic impact of this is huge, considering in the same survey they found that these shoppers had a collective purchasing power of £17.1 billion!

Source: Freeney Williams

5. An Accessible Website Can Positively Influence The Perception Of Your Brand

When a person with a disability has a positive experience with a website, they are more likely to sing the praises of that brand.

Conversely, if they have a poor experience they may share that experience with their network, which may damage the brand and customers’ trust in that brand.

First impressions count, so if we can get web accessibility right from the start it makes a big difference to how people perceive the brand.  

6. The Legal Implications

The Law protects people with disabilities, if they are unable to access certain features on a website this could result in legal action.

There are many countries with Laws and Policies surrounding web accessibility, here is a list of countries and policies compiled by the W3C.

The Australian Human Rights Commission provides advisory notes for online providers to support the Disability Discrimination Act. 

What Is It Like To Navigate A Website With A Disability?

Navigating a website with a disability can be a challenging experience. Different disabilities can affect how individuals access and interact with digital content, including websites, in various ways. 

Visual Impairment

People with visual impairments may have difficulty reading small text, distinguishing between foreground and background colours, or interpreting complex images.

Screen readers and text-to-speech tools can help, but some websites may not be optimised for these tools, making it difficult for users to navigate the site.

Example of a screen reader working through an accessible website:

Hearing Impairment

People with hearing impairments may not be able to hear audio or video content on a website.

Closed captioning and transcripts help by providing a written version of the audio.

If they are not provided, it can be frustrating for deaf users who are unable to access the information.

Here are some comments from a deaf person on web accessibility and why it’s so important:

Motor Impairment

People with motor impairments may have difficulty using a mouse or keyboard to navigate a website. 

Devices such as the Sip and Puff switch can be used to navigate websites and other technology and can even help the owner control their wheelchair.

The user either sips or puffs, which creates pressure, triggering an electrical signal to a computer which may allow them to access elements on a web page and click on buttons. 

Using this technology means it takes more time to access different elements on a website, therefore as web designers or website owners, we need to make our websites as easy to navigate as possible. 

In this video, you can see Jason, who has Cerebral Palsy using the Sip and Puff to access programs on his computer.

Websites that are not optimised for keyboard navigation or that require precise mouse movements can be difficult to use for people with motor impairments.

Joseph who has Cognitive Motor Impairment says: 

“If I can’t easily navigate a website with my keyboard, I often just leave the website”.  

Cognitive Impairment

People with cognitive impairments may have difficulty processing information, understanding complex language, or following multi-step instructions. Websites that use simple language and provide clear instructions can be easier to use for people with cognitive impairments.

In general, navigating a website with a disability can be frustrating and time-consuming if the website is not designed with accessibility in mind. However, with proper accessibility features, including clear language, descriptive images, and compatibility with assistive technologies, websites can be made more inclusive and accessible to all users.

By making websites accessible to people with disabilities, we can reach a wider audience which may mean more traffic and returning visitors. 

Now we know what sort of issues people with disabilities face when they use websites and other technologies, let’s look at some of the guidelines around web accessibility.

What Are The Guidelines For Web Accessibility?

The W3C, also known as the World Wide Web Consortium, is responsible for developing the International Standards for the Web. 

Within the W3C, there is an Initiative named WAI, or Web Accessibility Initiative, which has established the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.

This set of guidelines has been developed by a working group currently referred to as the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG WG).

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide the necessary information for making web pages... accessible

The WCAG, or Web