Web Accessibility and SEO

Web accessibility is the practice of making websites usable and accessible by people with abilities and disabilities. Web content accessibility guidelines WCAG 1.0 were published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1999 in an effort to make web content accessible to people with disabilities. The various categories of people that web accessibility addresses are:

  • Visual: Low vision and blindness
  • Motor/Mobility: problems in using the hands or muscles
  • Auditory: Hearing impairments
  • Seizures:  Seizures caused by visual strobe or flashing effects
  • Cognitive/Intellectual

According to a research report by Microsoft and Forrester Technologies

  • 40% (51.6 million) of computer users are likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology due to experiencing mild difficulties or impairments.
  • 17% (22.6 million) of computer users are very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology due to experiencing severe difficulties or impairments.
  • 43% (56.2 million) of computer users are not likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology due to experiencing no or minimal difficulties or impairments.

So as we can see there is probably a figure of 20% to 40% of computer users that could benefit from accessible technology and this should interest companies in the private sector who wish to benefit from this untapped market share and getting more traffic from Google. There are many websites out there that don’t meet accessibility guidelines and the only real push seems to be coming from the government.

In Australia the government has endorsed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 for all government websites. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 agencies must ensure that people with disabilities have the same fundamental rights to access information as the rest of the community.

So it would make sense that Google in its drive to push the development of the web and provide an enriched user experience would reward sites that are accessible. If we look at Google’s Webmaster Guidelines it mentions best practices which will help Google find, index and rank your site. We can see in the Design and Content Guidelines and Technical Guidelines recommendations closely match W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Designing a website with accessibility in mind not only help those people who are blind or disabled but provides a coding standard that is important for SEO.

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One Reply to “Web Accessibility and SEO”

It’s relevant to point out that the W3C has published a newer version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) in 2008: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/

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