1 Feb 2022

Using An Accessibility Overlay On Your Website Is More Important Than You Think

Post by Jordan Toplen

Not only is using an accessibility overlay for your website important, but it can also be the difference between keeping your site running or losing access to your account quickly. Typically you would set up Google Webmaster Tools and turn on the Fetch As Google option so that Google can crawl through your website, according to their guidelines, making sure they don’t see any major errors.

What Google does is run a bot through your website to make sure it can be indexed, but what you want them to see is how the website appears in the actual browser. When using an accessibility overlay, though, you are helping people who have disabilities navigate your site so that they can enjoy what you have to offer too.

If you are letting them view with “Fetch And Render” turned off, then it may not be showing what you think people are seeing on the webpage. It might look different if someone has no vision at all, uses a screen reader (for those that are blind), or even just has images turned off. Then there will be no color contrast which makes it difficult to see the text, and what we perceive as colorful and vibrant can be different than what someone with a color blindness sees. Even people with 20/20 vision might not want to strain their eyes trying to read just one line of text that is smaller than they would normally have it.

Fetch As Google should always be left on for your own website, especially if you are tracking your analytics in Google Analytics through their code on every page of your site. If your site isn’t accessible, it will impact your statistics, even if someone doesn’t go to the trouble of contacting you about it since Webmaster Tools alerts you when there is a problem crawling or indexing any part of your website.

When using a screen reader, many users will automatically bookmark your site and create a shortcut for easy access. That means that if it isn’t exactly what they are looking for, but they found it on the first try, then they will avoid coming back. It is like setting up Google Analytics to track visitors by using their IP address; most people don’t realize how often people use different computers (computer labs at school) or do web work on their phones or tablets with temporary wifi connections.

For SMEs (small/medium-sized enterprises), especially those who care about being able to find you through search engines, an inaccessible website can be a huge sorrow rather than a blessing because of the impact it has on the bottom line. While not everything should be online as far as security, the last thing you want to do is deny people access to your website simply because it can’t be accessed by a screen reader or keyboard-only interface. It is just more difficult to navigate, making it nearly impossible for anyone with any type of motor coordination issue to use your website.

The last thing you want to do is lose time, money, or even customers because your website isn’t accessible. You can have the greatest content on the internet, but if people are unable to access it, then they won’t be able to find out about you, let alone go back for repeat business. It is important that all your pages are accessible so that search engines can index them correctly no matter what device someone might be browsing on when they come across your site.

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