The ABC of Accessibility
From Backline to Frontline
Not too long ago, a US federal court took the second largest departmental store chain in the country, Target, to task for not making its website accessible. As a result, the entire notion of accessibility has come to the forefront of the Internet equation. The focus has gone beyond state side with more and more countries legislating accessibility in the broader context of web accessibility for all.
What is Web Accessibility?
b accessibility is a scientific process through which access to the knowledge body on a website is made available to site visitors who are disabled. This group is large. There are more than fifty million disabled individuals in the US alone and almost a half billion disabled persons in the world. Although not all of them have direct or even indirect access to the Internet, the ratio has been witnessing a steady upward momentum. With millions of websites becoming accessible to this user group every year, the number of disabled individuals expressing an interest in the Internet has also been increasing rapidly. Since you already have live chat on your website or are planning to explore this option seriously, you are headed in the right direction in terms of web accessibility. It is best to make your site web accessible before you are legally mandated to do so by your government because making your website accessible makes genuine business sense. The purchasing power of this group is in the billions of dollars. Moreover, due to reduced mobility, the disabled typically prefer to shop online and receive products and services at their doorstep. What is more, ever since Paypal became 100% accessible to the disabled, the entire argument regarding a viable online payment modality has become a no brainer. Here are a few things you can do yourself to make your website accessible without having to engage pricy web accessibility consultants. Research the matter further whenever you have the time and your website will become fully accessible in no time.
Label your Graphics and Graphic Links with Alternate Tags
If visual imagery is the dessert after a scrumptious meal, alt tag syntax is the proverbial icing on the cake. Place short descriptive phrases in all the alternate tags so that those who access your website with screen readers get to know more about your visuals. If possible, use the main keywords of your niche and website in these alt tags. Google will love you for it and will reward you with an improved PageRank and search engine results position.
Caption your Online Pictures
If you adopt the practice of captioning your pictures, you will not only provide your audience, disabled or otherwise, with a clue to what the picture represents, you will also make it possible for the search engines to index your photographs. You have probably noticed that a large number of images are now displayed in Google’s search engine results. Keyword-rich captioning will not only improve accessibility, it will generate additional traffic on your website that you weren’t being able to invite originally.
Piggy back Text Links
The search engine optimizers will tell you that the major search engines prefer text links to graphic links because most search engine search bots are visually impaired and can’t even tell color. You will be doing two important groups a big favor by piggy backing your graphic links with adjacent text links. Google will index your website in no time and those surfers for whom accessibility is key to a fruitful shopping experience on your website, easy access will emerge as the primary reason to visit your website and jingle their pocket books.
Web accessibility is good for your website. It is a prerequisite for doing business with the US federal government, all 50 states and territories. Many other governments are also mandating accessibility. You can set the wheel in motion by taking a few proactive steps and gradually transforming your online home as a shopping paradise not just for the rich and the famous but also for the loyal and the benevolent.