Website Accessibility – Marketing Benefits and Beyond

Before designing and developing your website, it’s standard practice to analyze your target market and tailor your site towards them. It makes good business sense, as building a site that’s predictable and easy to use for your target market means increased user satisfaction. But when we profile our target markets, it’s easy to overlook a specific portion that deserves your attention – those with disabilities.

We may believe that this segment of our market isn’t large enough to worry about. But in actuality, one in four Americans have some type of disability. To put this into perspective, there are more people in the US who are blind or have low vision than the entire population of Canada. In addition to vision issues, there’s a wide variety of other impairments – including hearing, motor, or cognitive – that make viewing and interacting with a website challenging.

Web accessibility involves taking certain measures affecting both the content and development of a website to ensure there are no barriers that prevent the visitor’s interaction with, or access to your website, no matter their disability. When websites employ accessible techniques, users have roughly equal access to information and functionality. Ensuring your website provides the best experience it can for people who would otherwise have difficulty using it is the ethical thing to do, but there are also good business reasons to make your site accessible.

Positive Word of Mouth

Your brand means everything to your business. Bad press can have a devastating effect on it, especially press the likes of which you’d receive if it became widely known that your site is seen as hostile to those with disabilities. Taking measures to make your site as accessible as possible can be a PR opportunity that helps build up your brand instead of hurting it.

SEO Benefits

Site owners should be doing everything they can to help their SEO since even the best site is worthless if no one finds it. Because accessibility best practices overlap those regarding SEO in some regards, making your site accessible can also help your site rank higher in search engine results.

Usability (UX) Benefits

Usability refers to how easy it is for visitors to find the information they’re looking for. It’s important as it increases overall website satisfaction. The better the usability, the better it is for your bottom line. Similar to SEO benefits, some of the same things you’d do to increase your site’s accessibility also are good usability practices.

Legal Benefits

Finally, there’s a potential cost for not employing website accessibility techniques. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that websites must offer equal access to information. This means that those with disabilities can take legal action against companies whose sites are not ADA compliant.

Types of Impairments

Visual Impairments

Visitors with visual impairments may be completely blind, have low vision, or colorblindness. In each of those cases, we need to take into account the way web pages are presented to the visitor. Often, users with visual impairments use screen reader technology to access web pages. This software reads the content on the page to the visitor, which results in a very different experience from seeing the content on the page. The experience becomes linear, as the content is read from the top of the page on down. This means content can’t have spatial relationships with other content, it’s simply read in a sequence. If you’re not careful in the creation of your content, the screen reader may be forced to read content that’s out of order, or meaningless to the listener, rather than providing beneficial, concise content.

Hearing Impairments

While text-based website content isn’t a concern for people with hearing impairments, more and more websites are employing video and audio, which may have spoken content that can’t be heard. Captions, transcripts, and other solutions are necessary additions to your site when addressing the needs of these users.

Motor Impairments

This refers to anyone with muscular control limitations, including tremors, involuntary movements, lack of coordination, paralysis, missing limbs, etc. A visitor who lacks the fine motor skills and dexterity necessary to use a mouse or trackpad needs to be able to use the keyboard to navigate your content. Forms can be especially problematic for people with motor impairments. The solutions to these types of issues involve simplifying content, shortening pages, adding the ability to skip ahead on a page, and other methods that have the added benefit of making your site easier to use for visitors without any impairments.

Cognitive Impairments

Users with cognitive impairments have issues in their ability to process the information on a web page. This can take the form of text that’s difficult to understand or unrecognizable symbols that most people may take for granted. In some instances, as with severe dyslexia, some of the techniques we use to aid visually impaired users may also help those with cognitive difficulties. In other cases, we rely on simplifying language to remove barriers to our content.

Accessibility Concerns


Because navigation is how users get to the content they’re looking for, making it accessible is imperative for everyone. Complex navigation systems, like those with multiple levels of sub-navigation, can be especially hard for screen readers to parse correctly, making it confusing for the listener. It is also more difficult for people without fine motor skills to use. Keeping the navigation as simple as possible is the key to reducing these issues.

Here are some things to consider when creating accessible navigation:

  • Make sure there’s a way to skip navigation so screen readers aren’t forced to read the contents of the navigation if the visitor just wants to get to the content quickly.
  • Navigation can be accessed via the keyboard and not just the mouse.
  • Images that are links have an appropriate “alt” tag set so that screen readers can let the visitor know what the link is.


As we age, our ability to see small type, especially small type on a background color or pattern, diminishes. And since people are living longer, the number of visitors to your site with older eyes is likely significant. To accommodate this, and other factors like color blindness or dyslexia that affect our ability to read, taking a look at how you’re using text becomes necessary in order to make your site available for your entire target audience.

Tips to make your text more accessible include:

  • Make sure there’s plenty of contrast between the text on the page and the background it’s on.
  • Text is large enough to be readable to those with vision impairments.
  • Use actual HTML text rather than images with text, as screen readers can’t read text that’s part of an image.
  • The text on your website does not use complex language, sentence structure, or slang that all visitors may not know.


While images and video help to make a website more visually appealing, they can be a barrier to people who can’t hear or see them. This means that you’ll need to analyze the visual or audio content on your site for any significant information impaired visitors would need to know, and plan your site so that you’re providing alternative ways to access it.

The following are just a few of the many things that help make multimedia accessible:

  • Images that convey complex information like that found in charts and graphs also have the text available somewhere on the site as HTML text.
  • All images that are not purely decorative have “alt” tags explaining the content seen in the image.
  • Videos with speech have text transcripts or close captioning to allow those with hearing impairments to read to the content.


Forms are often the lifeblood of a website. They allow visitors to buy things, to sign up to receive information, and more. Making them accessible means creating forms that are easy to understand, complete, and successfully submit. Following best practices in form accessibility has the added benefit of making your forms more appealing to those without impairments, which can lead to fewer abandoned forms, the bane of all websites.

Make sure you take the following into account when creating forms for your website:

  • All form fields use a label tag to identify to screen readers what they’re referring to.
  • Using the tab key to navigate through form fields should logically follow the fields down the form and not jump around.
  • Groups of related form fields have a “fieldset” tag associated with them to be clearer.
  • Recovering from an error, such as not filling in a required field or entering in data in an incorrect format, should be easy for the user, and clear descriptions of the errors are presented.

Other Considerations

Because of the wide range of possible impairments that can hamper a visitor’s ability to interact with your site, there are many steps that you can take that don’t fall into the categories above.

Here are some additional things you should be thinking about when doing an accessibility audit on your site:

  • Never rely on visual clues to convey information. For example, never say something like “Click the button on the right”, since visitors relying on screen readers don’t have any reference for what “right” is.
  • Give visitors the ability to pause or stop any content that disappears from view, like text inside a carousel, so that they have time to read it before it leaves.
  • Use semantic HTML tags like

A Website Everyone Can Use

It may seem as though making a website accessible to visitors with disabilities comes at the cost of the flexibility of your web design. And while it’s true that some designs are more difficult than others to successfully make accessible to everyone, all websites will benefit after performing an accessibility audit. To that end, if you’re looking for a starting point, download Kalyber’s Website Accessibility Checklist. It lists the most common changes you can make to your site so it can be more ADA compliant.