Today, we’d like to answer a question that comes up a lot, “Why should my business or organisation worry about website accessibility?” Disheartening as that might sound, it should be clear why inclusion matters: everyone deserves equal access regardless of the accommodations they might need. But many businesses (and sometimes individuals) ask for more concrete reasons beyond, “It’s the right thing to do.”
Whether you’re trying to convince your management or leadership that digital accessibility should be a priority, or you’re trying to justify the cost, below we’ve outlined some of the bonus benefits of making your website more inclusive and accessible.
#1 SEO and accessibility overlap
You might be surprised to learn that search engine optimization (SEO) and web accessibility overlap quite a bit. Basically, this means if you've hired someone to improve your SEO, nearly three-quarters of their advice would probably overlap with enhancing your website's accessibility as well.
Why is this? Because many search engines (eg: Google, Yahoo, Bing) use automated programs called 'robots', 'bots' or 'spiders' to examine websites — including yours. These programs report back about that site’s structure and content and if they like what they see the search engines will bump your website further up their page rankings.
By optimizing your website’s structure and content to make it more accessible for those using screen readers, you’re also be making it search engine friendly. Bonus!
That's not all; there are many other accessibility enhancements that can improve your website's SEO. For example, if your website has responsive design that scales to different screen sizes without breaking the layout, search engines will view the site more favorably. Along the same lines, a responsive design can help users who have low vision and rely on zooming in to read a website's content.
It's not possible to list every enhancement here because it'd take too long. But there are a number of ways in which accessibility efforts in the design of your website will also improve your site’s SEO.
#2 Responsive design demonstrates that you care
Focusing on inclusivity and accessibility makes a difference, and can often increase your audiences’ loyalty to your business or brand. How do you think your website users, customers, or collaborators feel when your website doesn't demonstrate you value them and their business?
By committing to enhancing your website's inclusivity and accessibility and making user resources available, you are making an affirmative statement that you value your audience. Having a quality accessibility statement on your website also helps demonstrate your accessibility journey and commitment to improving accessibility. But mostly, you should make sure to let people know what efforts you are making, where the resources are available on your website, and how to use them. A quality accessibility statement is a valuable addition to any website.
#3 Improve your user experience across the board
You might be thinking that website inclusivity and accessibility means foregoing style, polish, or wow factor. If you ask anyone who has made a serious effort to increase their website's accessibility, they will probably agree with the view that improving the user experience for site visitors with disabilities will invariably improve the experience of the general audience as well.
For example, if your site uses a plain dark font and left-aligned text, it makes your content more readable for users with dyslexia. It also makes your content more readable for everyone else.
Similarly, if your website’s design has a clean layout and lots of white space, users with dyslexia or cognitive disabilities will have an easier time reading your content. Who else will enjoy a less cluttered layout? That’d be nearly everyone.
Link text can be cleaned up to be more concise and more meaningful improves the user experience for blind users listening to your content through screen readers. It also makes the link and surrounding text more attractive and readable for everyone else too. For example, consider the following two versions of a sentence:
To find our more, visit http://www.ird.govt.nz
To find out more, visit the IRD website
The second version is far better for both blind and sighted users. Blind users don't have to listen to the "http" and "www" clutter, and sighted users don't have to read through it. Win win.
Adding quality alt text for images also makes your site friendlier for blind or visually impaired users. Alt text are words that describe an image or graphics on your page. For example: 'Person driving a car' or 'child eating an apple'. Alt text can also make you properly think about the image or graphics you select and how helpful or relevant it truly is (or not). Images for the sake of images don't add value for users if your website fundamentally lacks quality content and information.
#4 Take steps that will benefit all of your website users
It's always important to consider digital inclusivity and accessibility when creating or updating your website. Alienating users and making your content inaccessible creates barriers for your audience, and does not make good business sense. At its core, an inclusive and accessible website is useful for people with or without disabilities and there are lots of simple changes you can implement that will improve the digital experience for all users.