We live in a digital world where one of the critical aspects of living a quality life is the inclusivity of online spaces. Approximately 16% of the world’s population (1 in every six persons) experience disability.
A whopping 96% of the top million homepages fail to meet the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which means they are not accessible to people with disabilities.
In addition to the ethical and legal implications, these websites lose $6.9 billion yearly to competitors providing accessible sites. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure your website is accessible and equitable while being SEO-optimized.
In this article, we will explore ADA compliance, its importance, and the best SEO practices to make your website ADA-compliant.
What Is ADA Compliance?
Standing for Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design, ADA compliance ensures all websites (electronic and information technology) are accessible to people with disabilities. These standards also apply to all web developers and online businesses.
So, all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses open to the public, must comply with the act. They can use standards listed in Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 standards to ensure compliance.
It’s worth noting that numerous countries worldwide promote ADA compliance and ensure that websites are accessible to avoid potential legal consequences.
If a website doesn’t comply with the ADA, a person with a disability can sue the owner, and this has become more and more prevalent in recent years.
Adam Zayed, founder of Zayed Law Offices, says the following:
“Over the years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of lawsuits filed under the ADA. In fact, since 2013, more than 3000 lawsuits have been filed in federal court, claiming that online websites were not accessible to people with disabilities, thus violating Title III of the ADA.
So, law firms must seek help from web developers specializing in ADA compliance. Only these individuals can help a firm ensure the website is accessible to people with disabilities and meets the proper standards.”
How People With Disabilities Use the Web
Assistive technology is necessary for individuals with disabilities. That includes those who experience vision loss, as it enables them to easily access and use the internet quickly.
By providing the necessary tools and software, we can empower people with disabilities to navigate the digital world on equal footing.
A Braille keyboard is a unique keyboard that differs significantly from the standard QWERTY keyboard. It consists of eight primary keys that are used to compose Braille letters.
Surrounding these eight primary keys, you have the space bar, function keys, and other keys. In addition to the traditional Braille keyboard, there are standard QWERTY keyboards with Braille letters overlaid.
They help make navigation and locating the cursor easier for visually impaired people, allowing for a more tactile and intuitive interface.
Screen magnifiers can assist visually impaired people. They come in external devices and software. Good screen magnifiers make information bigger, reduce screen glare, and improve cursor tracking and contrast.
A screen reader works by reading out the text displayed on the screen through a speech synthesizer or translating it into Braille for those who prefer that. An effective screen reader offers various options to help the visually impaired control what they hear.
These options include reading only a single line of text, identifying a specific text string on the screen, reading only the bold text, or reading text in a particular color.
Using voice control software tools to convert speech to text helps people with disabilities access the web with other AT solutions.
Does Your Website Have to Be ADA-Compliant?
The simple answer to this question is yes. However, let us understand why.
Building an ADA-compliant website ensures your business is accessible to all. It is equivalent to taking a step toward a more equitable digital landscape. But it also has many other benefits beyond that.
Being ADA-compliant helps you avoid hefty lawsuits and fines. First-time violators can be fined between $55,000 to $75,000, while repeated violators face $150,000 fines.
It improves the usability of your website for everyone. For example, having video captions does not only make your video content accessible to people with hearing impairment, but also to people who are watching in a noisy area.
An improved user experience often leads to higher conversion rates, better customer satisfaction, and more website traffic.
It helps you increase your potential customer base. Additionally, it also enhances your brand reputation.
Businesses need to have an ADA-compliant website. Many customers may only access the website with it, leading to lost revenue and a negative reputation.
How to Make Your Website ADA Compliant?
An accessible website is crucial to improving SEO, as both aim to provide an enhanced user experience. Here are 9 SEO practices that make your website ADA-compliant.
1. Optimize Title Tags and Headings
Optimizing your title tags and headings is one of the most significant SEO practices. The title tag describes what your website is to the users. Screen readers also read page titles to tell their users about the website they’re currently using.
So, if a visually impaired user accesses your website through a screen reader, your title tag will also be read. But that’s not all. Search engines also use these tags to recognize your page’s contents.
Therefore, it must be relevant and optimized for your users while containing the primary keyword.
Headings, on the other hand, help improve the readability of your website. They help people using assistive technologies to skip to the part they want to read instead of reading the entire page.
So, ensure your headings are in order (H3, H4 follow H2, and so on), and each heading accurately describes your content.
2. Include Descriptive Alt Text
Have you ever seen a text written in place of an image when it doesn’t load properly? The text typically describes what the image is about. That is nothing but alt text.
Alt text is another essential component of enhancing accessibility while ranking high on Google. It describes your image to Google, which helps it appear in image search results.
Screen readers also read it to help visually impaired people understand the image. For example, look at this image:
The alt text added by the website:
This alt text is accurate and relevant and helps people understand what is in the image. While writing your alt text, try to make it as descriptive as possible.
“As a junior marketer, one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given regarding alt-texts was:
‘Think about how you would describe this image to a visually impaired person.’ I always share it with new team members, as I want to foster inclusivity and enhance our communication precision.” Lorelei Trisca, Content Marketing Manager at Zavvy.
For example, instead of saying “pancake” for an image, say “hand holding a plate of pancakes with a cherry on the top.” If your image is of a logo, write “_Company Name _logo.”
3. Use Descriptive Anchor Text
Look at these two statements:
Which one sounds better? The second one, right?
Anchor text refers to the text that has some link attached to it. It typically takes users to another page with related content. Many websites usually use non-descriptive anchor texts like _click here _or directly putting a URL.
That also makes your website inaccessible as it doesn’t accurately describe what the link is for. Therefore, try to write concise and relevant texts so users with disabilities know which links are worth exploring. This way, you can also add keywords.
4. Create an Accessible Page Structure and Navigation
A proper navigation structure is the cornerstone of an accessible website. If your website has multiple pages, it is essential to have straightforward navigation. That is beneficial for both search engines and screen readers.
Some strategies to create an accessible page structure include:
- Adding descriptive and unique page titles
- Creating navigation menus accessible by keyboard
- Placing meaningful labels for each link
- Adding a sitemap that provides an overview of your website’s content (more on this later)
5. Improve Mobile Accessibility
Did you know that over 55% of website traffic is from mobile devices? That means your website should have an optimized mobile version to reach a wider audience. All the features and content on your site should be equally accessible on a smaller screen.
It includes text-to-speech capabilities, easy navigation, and compatibility with screen readers.
Here are some things you can do to make your website mobile-friendly:
- Properly format content with headings to enhance readability
- Optimize site speed for quick loading on smaller screens
- Ensure it is compatible with voice search and screen readers
- Have a simple and responsive design
6. Create On-Site Sitemaps
An on-site sitemap is like a detailed map of your website’s layout. It provides an organized structure for all your web pages, making it easier for search engines to index your content and for users to find what they want.
It benefits people who rely on screen readers, voice commands, or other navigation methods.
The two types of sitemaps are XML and HTML sitemaps. XML sitemaps are designed for search engine crawlers, while HTML ones help users navigate the website. Here is an example of an HTML sitemap:
7. Make Your Website Screen Reader-Friendly and Keyboard-Friendly
This goes without saying – your website should be screen reader-friendly and keyboard-friendly. In short, it should be easy to navigate for people with disabilities.
Here’s what you can do to achieve this:
- Add a “skip to main content” button at the top of the page.
- Make all drop-downs navigable through arrow keys.
- Enable users to navigate throughout the website using the_ Tab _key.
- Ensure your website has a specific area for dynamic content. That will not interfere with screen readers.
- Avoid using naked links (URLs) for linking information.
You can also conduct screen reader accessibility testing to check your website’s accessibility.
8. Add Video Captions and Transcripts to Videos
Videos are one of the most popular media, with the global digital video viewership reaching 3.5 billion in 2023. However, without captions, these videos will not be accessible to people with hearing impairments or sensory issues.
Therefore, it is crucial to add captions to all your video content. Another way to enhance accessibility is to create transcripts.
You can publish it on the same page as the video. Apart from allowing people to skim through the transcripts, it will also enable screen readers to read them.
9. Make Your Web Design Accessible
A well-designed website is beneficial for SEO and critical for complying with ADA. Google considers user experience for SEO rankings. Therefore, your website should be easy to use and navigate.
Here’s what the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) suggests:
- Provide a reasonable contrast ratio on your website.
- Use both colors and symbols to convey or highlight information.
- Choose an easy-to-read font and size.
- Make interactive elements easily identifiable.
- Include alt texts, links to audio transcripts for videos, and captions.
- Use headings and proper spacing.
Who says ensuring accessibility compromises SEO? We can safely conclude from the abovementioned ways that SEO and accessibility go hand-in-hand. These practices help create an inclusive online environment while cultivating a good brand image.
Including ADA-compliant features on your website is crucial to improving accessibility for approximately one in four Americans with disabilities. Not only that, but implementing these features can also significantly boost your website’s SEO.