Technology and the internet have transformed nearly all aspects of our daily life. Unfortunately, not everyone has an equally positive experience in this digital world. When websites are designed with accessibility in mind, people of all abilities benefit. 

First and foremost, creating and maintaining a website inclusive to everyone is the right thing to do. With 22% of Canadians over the age of 15 living with at least one disabilityit’s unlikely most websites would intentionally exclude such a large percentage of people.  

Having an accessible website translates to several other benefits. Here are five key areas: 

Improved Usability

Web accessibility and usability go hand-in-hand. In fact, many of the core elements for creating an accessible website also leads to easier web navigation for all visitors. Let’s review the common elements where accessibility and usability overlap.

Alt Text 

Adding alternative text to your website’s images, graphs, and charts not only benefits those using a screen reader or assistive technology, but also helps in cases of slow internet connection. If users have a difficult time loading images, alt text provides a description of what the image contains before it finishes loading. 

Keyboard Navigation 

If you’ve been researching or working towards web accessibility, you’ve probably come across the keyboard navigation test. Try removing your mouse and navigating your website with only your keyboard. Does it work? Would you say it’s a good user experience? The internationally accepted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) require websites to be navigable using only a keyboard (and similar devices such as switch controls). The reason is that many users are unable to, or have challenges, operating a mouse.   

Video Captions 

Did you know that 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound? Adding closed captioning to videos not only helps those who are deaf or experience hearing loss, but it allows more users to properly consume your content.  Audio descriptions may also be necessary if a video has actions or visual references that happen on-screen that cannot be observed by some users but are critical to understanding the story. For instance, when a magician completes a complex trick on-screen and the only audible dialogue is, “Wow! That is amazing., an audio transcript is probably necessary. 

Better SEO

Yes, it’s true: creating a more accessible website boosts your search engine optimization (SEO)! Much like usability, there is a lot of overlap between accessible web practices and search engine optimization.

Page Titles and Headings

Structuring your pages in a consistent way with proper title tags and headings provides context for search enginesIn addition, relevant relationships between title, headings, and content are key to a successful SEO content strategy. 

Properly structured web and PDF pages provide meaningful, sequential orderScreen readers (JAWS, NVDA for PC, and VoiceOver for Mac) may use the keyboard to navigate a page from top to bottom, left to right, and to announce the content out loudScreen reader users often employ keyboard shortcuts to quickly jump to headings, links, forms, and tables, so it’s important that these elements are understandable out of order or without the context of the whole page. Use plain language and meaningful headings, labels, descriptive links, and instructions to better aid people with cognitive issues (ADHD, autism, anxiety, dyslexia) and those whose second language is English. 

Links 

Anchor text or the visible, selectable text in a hyperlink, should always be brief, informational, and make sense when read out of context. Never ever use “Click here”!  

Video and Audio Transcripts 

A key alternative to watching video or listening to podcastand a requirement under WCAGis a textual transcriptGoogle and other search engines are unable to search through the speech in videos and podcastsHowever, when you provide transcripts (and closed captions), search engines can index the content, making your website and its content more discoverable. Also, ensure your transcript includes a description of the actions, persons speaking, and the dialogue itself.  

Wider Audience Reach 

If your website is not accessible, 20% of internet users may encounter issues when navigating. Studies find that 71% of disabled users with access needclick away from a website they find difficult to use. Simply put, an accessible website increases the overall number of people who can visit and navigate your web pages. You increase awareness, sales, conversions, or whatever your business goals may be. Moreover, users who access your website – versus your competitor’s –hold the possibility of becoming loyal, life-long customers. 

Reduced Risk of Fines 

Accessibility is a hot topic in CanadaWith the recent passing of the Accessible Canada Act in the House of Commons, as well as provincial accessibility legislation in OntarioManitoba, and Nova Scotia, creating an inclusive website has never been more important from a legal standpoint. These pieces of accessibility legislation include a focus on removing barriers in information and communication technology, which includes websites. Creating an accessible website helps ensure you are compliant with accessibility legislation and reduces your risk of fines for non-compliance.  

Elevated Reputation

“All PR is good PR”. Well, that’s not necessarily the case. Especially when it comes to accessibility. From Beyoncé to Wal-Mart, and even Netflix—several major websites have been publicly called out for being inaccessible. This can lead to lawsuits, fines, and negative publicity for your organization. Conversely, by taking an active stand on accessibility, you can generate positive PR. 

If your website is accessible to everyone, you join an innovative, truly global trend towards inclusion. Acknowledging the rights of people with disabilities is not just the fashionable thing to do. It’s the right thing to do 

Ready to take the first step? Use our Accessibility Quick Checker to get a high-level overview of your website’s current accessibility level!