How to Accommodate Visitors with Visual and Hearing Impairments

connected — may 29 (day 29)

As a customer-centric business owner, you’ve probably considered the fact that visually and hearing impaired people visit your website. But are you doing everything you can to make sure your site is easily accessible to all visitors?

Making your website easily navigable for visitors with limited eyesight and hearing is simply good customer service.There are approximately 10 million blind and visually impaired people living in the U.S., as well as nearly 28 million people living with hearing impairments. How will these visitors feel about your brand when they come to your site?

Here are a few ways you can ensure that your website is easy to navigate for all of your customers:

1. Use descriptive alt tags

Alt tags are HTML text descriptions that can be added to visual elements on a webpage. Alt tags remain invisible to people viewing your page, but they are readable by search engine spiders and screen readers used by people with visual disabilities. Neither spiders nor screen readers can interpret images or videos if they don’t have alt tags, so including this simple addition to your web text will make your site a million times better for visually impaired visitors.

2. Add closed captioning to all of your videos

Manually create captions for all of the videos included on your website. Don’t leave it to YouTube’s Automatic Caption feature to create subtitles for you – as anyone who has attempted to read these subtitles knows, they are often a jumbled mess and can be very difficult to read. By taking the time to create your own video captions, you can ensure that your videos are clearly transcribed and easily accessible to hearing impaired visitors. As an added bonus, you’ll be glad to know that crawlers can also read captions, and so including them in your videos has the potential to increase your rankings.

3. Provide manuscripts for audio podcasts

In addition to including captions in your videos, you should also transcribe all of the audio podcasts available on your website. Again, not only is this a great way to make sure that hearing impaired visitors can easily access the information available within the podcasts, but it can also help your rankings.

In order to efficiently keep track of your micro conversions, I recommend not including your podcast transcriptions directly on your website. Instead, include a clearly labeled file of the podcast transcription on your site and offer it as a free download. Unlike when you offer the transcribed text directly on your site, you’ll easily be able to tell how many people wanted to read the podcast transcription by the number of times the document was downloaded. While it’s likely that not all of these downloads will be completed by hearing impaired people, this metric can provide you valuable data about the ways in which your visitors prefer to consume information.

4. Use descriptive anchor text

Aside from being a standard best practice in SEO, providing descriptive anchor text is a great way to inform visually impaired visitors about the internal navigation structure of your website. If your anchor text only says “Click here,” visually impaired visitors aren’t going to want to click on your links because there is no clear indication of where the link is going. If, however, your anchor text says “Click here to learn more about our financing options,” a clear sense of direction is provided and the visitor can quickly decide if he or she wants to navigate to that page. This simple step can make your site much easier to use, providing your customers with an overall better online experience.

5. Describe your product pictures

Describing your product pictures is very necessary if you want to provide the best user experience for all of your customers. Especially if you own an ecommerce website, providing important information about product colors and patterns is very helpful to visually impaired or color-blind people. If you site shows several pictures of the same style shirt in varying colors, describe each shirt and its color. However, it’s important to be mindful of duplicate content, which can negatively affect your rankings. For each product, write a brief but unique description. Such small details can make a huge difference in user experience on your site, and customer satisfaction with your product later.

 

In what other ways could you make your websites accessible to all visitors? Tell me in the comments section below!

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