Have you ever thought about how difficult it would be to navigate the web if you had some form of vision impairment? In this era of extreme digitalization, chances are you know someone who deals with this struggle every single day. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment. Types of visual impairment can range from color blindness to being fully blind.
It’s important to keep these 1.3 billion people in mind when optimizing your website’s search engine optimization, as you could be missing out on a major segment of potential customers. Individuals with certain forms of visual impairment use screen readers like VoiceOver or Jaws to navigate the web. These screen readers use code to determine the structure and analyze the content of a web page. This is important because if your web page is structurally inaccurate, screen readers will not be able to interpret the data, which can cause you to lose out on potential customers interested in learning more about your business.
Keep in mind: even though you may have optimized a web page for search engines, it doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily made it accessible for the visually impaired! There are certain optimization strategies that are not screen reader-friendly, so we weary!
What does this mean? There are certain aspects of search engine optimization(SEO) that overlap with accessibility optimization. However, just because you are optimizing your web presence for one, that does not mean you’re optimizing for the other. Below are a few SEO tactics to get you started that also aid in site accessibility.
1. Optimize title tags
Title tags are an essential element in search engine optimization as they provide context as to what the web page is about and determines how the page appears in the search result display. These title tags give people with visual impairments the ability to differentiate content when multiple web pages are open.
2. Use the correct heading tags!
We can’t stress this one enough because page headings indicate the topics and subtopics that create a necessary readability structure. An H1 tag indicates the main topic of the page while H2-6 indicate subtopics. It’s important to keep in mind that using multiple H1 tags on a page creates a huge mess for screen readers as it makes the structure confusing. Screen readers use heading to navigate a web page, so imagine how confusing it would be to have multiple main topics on a single page? Just don’t do it!
3. Have an on-site sitemaps/ table of contents
Have a clear, simple sitemap on your page. This not only aids in Google’s indexing of your webpage, it also allows screen readers to better understand the contents of your website.
4. Caption your images
Captioning your images not only provides context for screen readers, but it gives Google the ability to segment text near an image and attribute it to that image to create its own caption. Keep in mind that if you are using an image caption there is no need for an alt tag as that would simply be repetitive! A good example of this would be placing text that reads “Figure 1:” directly underneath your image. That way, if screen readers are unable to read alt tags, there is a caption to rely on. This is important because when Google crawls your site to determine organic ranking, important factors like this will aid in boosting your position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
5. Check size and color contrast of text
Most people choose the fonts and colors on their website simply for aesthetic reasons. While there is nothing wrong with that, there are some important things to keep in mind regarding accessibility. Low color contrast and small fonts are a nightmare for the visually impaired so please be wary! Individuals that are color blind or color vision-deficient may have a hard time distinguishing certain colors on your page or perhaps only see things in black and white or grayscale. Here are some tools that can scan your site for color/text issues:
We hope this is a good starting point in getting you on the path to universal accessibility. If you’d like to talk to us more about website accessibility simply fill out the form below and we will be in touch shortly!