Accessibility in SEO has become a very trendy topic of late.
While it’s thrilling to see this, we’re unfortunately noticing a lot of talk about accessibility and not many implementations. This is frustrating to see, as many of the best practices in creating an accessible site will also help your SEO efforts. It really shouldn’t be such a low priority.
The UK has a population of 67.22 million. 18% of the UK’s population lives with a disability and 78% of people with disabilities have access to the internet.
Around 96% of all the people in the UK have internet access – that means 14.4% (18 * 78 /97) of the total internet population has a disability, bringing us to around 9.8 million people.
If we’re not promoting and implementing accessibility best practices, we’re excluding people. People shouldn’t be equated to a monetary value. However, from experience, it can be a powerful tool for convincing the value of work.
In 2021, it was estimated in the UK there would be £120 billion spent online. If we apply the 14% of internet users with disabilities in the UK to the estimated £120 billion, we see there were around £16.8 billion spent online in the UK by users with disabilities.
If being a decent and supportive person isn’t enough to inspire you to create an accessible website, then maybe excluding 9.7 million people and potentially losing a share of £16.8 billion will.
Now your attention is piqued, let’s discuss a few ways to create an accessible website.
How do I know if my site is accessible?
Like most things in SEO, there are hundreds of ways to make your site inaccessible, and just as many ways to fix them. The best way to see if your site is accessible is to audit and review it.
How to audit your site for accessibility
Use accessibility auditing tools
SEO’s have a plethora of auditing tools available at their fingertips. axe DevTools is one such tool, allowing users to do on-page tests of the accessibility of specific pages. It’s fantastic to get a quick snapshot of areas to improve and how to improve them, particularly when running spot checks.
To audit a site’s full accessibility, Sitebulb is a more in-depth option. The fantastic thing about Sitebulb is that they use axe DevTools as part of their accessibility audit.
Simply set up an audit as normal, select the accessibility option, and let it run. This gives a fantastic overall picture and a good understanding of issues.
Navigate the site using a screen reader
A massive proportion of people with disabilities in the UK need to use assistive technology to navigate the internet. It’s incredibly important that, as SEOs, we factor in the different ways people use the internet while doing our audits.
Every time you work on a new website, navigate it using only a screen reader. There are many options for using a screen reader available – most computers will have one already built in. The screen reader plug in that Google Chrome created is a good option.
Once you’ve activated the screen reader, spend half an hour or so navigating the site you are working on. Have it read blog posts, product pages, services, and every page you can find. Listen out for image alt text, clearly represented links, and descriptions on buttons and key features.
Navigating the site without a mouse
Some users may be unable to use a mouse and will have to navigate your site in a completely different way. It is important you know how to navigate your site in this manner to understand their unique user experience.
The way to do this is checking the tabbing in a logical order. Load up the site and use the tab key to navigate it. If you want to click a link, you will need to tab to it and hit the enter key.
While doing this, you should move from the left side of the page to the right, as well as following the natural flow of the article. If you find you’re jumping up and down the page, then this area needs additional work. It takes a minute to get used to, but it is a quick way to see if your site is accessible.
Checking for mobile accessibility issues
As an SEO, you should already be auditing the mobile usability of a site. On the mobile version of a site, common issues around accessibility are for those with visual impairments and limited mobility.
Users with severe visual impairments will most likely already have a screen reader, but those who have less severe visual issues may need to increase the text size or zoom in and out. You can quickly check these by checking if the meta viewport tag is correct from your computer. You should also load the site on a mobile device and pinch to see if the zoom is working.
To check the accessibility for users with limited mobility, load the site on your mobile and navigate the site using only your knuckles. Click every link, button, and call to action you find. If you miss click or find it challenging, then you know there is more work to be done for users with disabilities.
By completing all these various audits, you can better understand how a user with disabilities would experience the site and can then create a plan on how to improve it in the future. With this information, you can then go on to write an accessibility statement and kick start the improvements.