Website Accessibility: the forgotten SEO

When I opened my first business and built my first website, the idea of website accessibility never crossed my mind. Now that I’ve stumbled into this rabbit hole, I can think of nothing else.

The bad news: very few websites of the 400 million active websites in the world are truly accessible to all people.

The good news: it’s never too late to start! Meeting accessibility standards improves Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and simplifies user experiences. It’s like bowling with bumpers: your score automatically goes up.

Where to start

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. A brick and mortar business is required to meet ADA standards, and an online business is no different.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the leading authority for web content accessibility. In fact, they produced Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 for all of us to read and enjoy. Yes, it’s complex. No, you can’t do it all at once.

The WCAG 2.1 has described and provided guides for the following digital content categories: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Thankfully, there are three levels, so don’t panic: A, AA, and AAA. If we all start with meeting A level standards and continue to work our way up, the digital world will be a better place.

Why accessibility is good

We all want our websites to appear at the top of Google’s search results, but we often fail. This is partly due to Google’s ever changing rules, but also websites get too complex, aren’t organized well, or lack basic navigation rules.

Accessibility standards provide parameters for design that simplify your options and keep the user experience a positive one (which is all Google cares about, TBH). In the accessibility world, Colors need to have contrast. Fonts need to be at least 16px. Images need alt text, which helps with searchability.

Overall, accessibility helps everyone. 2020 taught us that we will all be online more now and in the future. Make your content available to everyone by finding reputable sources who understand the WCAG 2.1 requirements and can help you get started.

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