After not hearing much about it for years, I’m seeing the concept of accessibility be discussed again. It’s a challenging topic because traditional approaches were not the most aesthetically pleasing. Unless a site owner had a direct need for it, I’ve found that most decided it wasn’t the most critical item on their website’s todo list.
Why is accessibility important? An accessible site is better from both a human and a computer readable perspective.
The web spiders which crawl your site to index them for search engines do so in a manner that is similar to how a screen reader will navigate those same pages for the visually impaired. The difference isn’t really one at all: you want to be found by search engines; you want your content to be found by your people. SEO and ADA have many of the same requirements.
Let me take a few moments to diverge and share this story of Mister Rogers that’s making the social media rounds again. It’s the heartwarming reason why he would mention out loud that he fed his fish. A girl wrote in that she couldn’t see when he was feeding them, her father noted that his daughter was blind. That one comment, and a simple fix provided greater access.
Returning to the point. It’s straightforward to research best practices for accessibility. I’m thankful the web environment has swung from inaccessibility (flash dominant websites) to one where it’s a part of the conversation, see accessibility at the wordpress codex and the genesis theme framework, and the A11Y Project. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You know what you should do, but a complete overhaul of your website isn’t in your budget right now.
What can you start to do today to improve accessibility?
Provide Alternative Access
It’s important to make sure that there’s alternative ways of accessing your content. As you begin to adopt the habit of providing these, you will find that they are less costly in your time and become easier to produce.
- Add descriptive text to your image alt tags.
- Provide a transcript with your audio podcast.
- Add closed captions to video.
- If your contact information is an image because you desire a specific font or formatting please change it!
Providing this information as text will be good for both search engines and potential customers. Small behavior changes can create significant positive impact.