Think Visibility 2010: Practical Accessibility … and SEO

The original title of the session was 'Practical Accessibility' but I could clearly see a connection with SEO.

Presented by Ian Pouency:

- former web developer at Yahoo

- member of W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Education

- member of Accessibility Forum (eAccessibility and eInclusion)

Ian started his presentation with the following awesome video:

First double back flip on a wheelchair

Universal Access

All internet users should be able to

- Find the content they are looking for

- Understand it

- Navigate easily the various pages of any site

- Interact with it

Why accessibility?

1. To help your users

2. Don't become a target (in the US many companies have been sued for inaccessible web sites)

3. Profit. There are 10m disabled people in the UK and 54m in the US with $20 billion spending power.

Disability Types

Types of disabilities to consider in order to make a site accessible:

- Visual

- Auditory

- Physical

- Cognitive

- Neurological

Web Accessibility Myths:

1. Site validation – Valid code on a site doesn't necessarily mean that it is accessible

2. All or nothing – There are so many disabilities that it cannot be said that a site is accessible or inaccessible. Making a site accessible for blind users doesn't mean it will be accessible to deaf people.

3. It's all about screen readers - This is not the case. Too small buttons or links will be hard to navigate/use for people with physical/neurological disabilities.

4. Difficult – It’s not as difficult as some developers/designers think.

5. Easy – It isn’t easy either because you need to think of various disabilities. Mainstream websites should include for instance people with learning difficulties who are often overlooked. There shouldn’t be a different site for them so they can keep up with times.

Bad advice

- Add title attributes to links – pretty useless, especially if spammed for SEO purposes.

- Give all images alt text – not all images need it.

- Links to accessible version of your page/site – You give different experiences to different users.

Good advice

- Many times accessibility is more important than SEO

- Alt: describe the image, not what you try to optimise the page/soite for.

- Link text is very important – it should always describe the destination, don’t spam them for SEO purposes.


Structure of your site is made up of a few things:

- Headings – relevant to the copy of the page

- Lists – fantastic way to break down content

- Differentiate between different content types such as navigation, forms links etc by using different styles.

Written Content

- Concise sentences

- One subject

- Spelling and grammar – for many users English is not their first language so grammar mistakes can confuse them.


- Make it big – 12-13px

- Clear – use high contrast

- Limit line lengths (about 70 characters)


- Keep forms simple

- Require only that which is required

- All forms should have labels

- Use fieldsets – bits of code that organise content in order to separate it

- Avoid Turing tests (captchas) because they are horribly inaccessible. Do you want more spammers or more clients?

- People with cognitive difficulties may not be able to answer questions like “what color is the sky”. Don't forget that there is an element of subjectivity sometimes. Can be grey in Scotland and blue in other places.


Don't use them for layout


- Avoid unexpected movement /sounds. Nothing should move/play sound unless a user wants to.

- Add captions in all videos, transcribe audio and video. This will also help SEO, especially long tail searches.

Mixed content

The following would cover pretty much any issue:

- text

- images

- video

- audio

Example: people with learning difficulties won't read the text but will look at the images and videos.



- contrasting blocks of color as it will not help users to focus on your content

- unexpected sounds

- moving content

- pop ups

The majority of people who use screen readers are on Windows with Internet Explorer.

HTML 5 will make things easier but HTML 4 will be around for another 10-20 years.

What I liked:

His Iron Maiden t-shirt. Up the Irons!

What I didn’t like:

Just a handful of people turned up. It seems that internet marketers aren’t interested in web accessibility. How can’t they see that they are another market with great spending capabilities?