Website Design for the Blind

By March 10, 2010 SEO

For a recent website design of mine, I received some interesting feedback from a blind user. It had never crossed my mind to design websites in a way in which they would make sense if they were read aloud to the user. Blind users likely access your site through a Screen Reader, meaning they hear your website instead of see it.

The more I got to thinking about this, I realized that creating websites with the blind in mind just might help in search engine rankings as well.

Consider the following suggestions that I received from the blind user. Most of these will also assist in your Search Engine Optimization techniques:

  1. Use Alt text for every image.  This is SEO 101, but be descriptive in the alternative text you use for the image.  The blind user will hear this text, so describe the image using keywords relevant to your page copy.
  2. Use a healthy balance of text and images.  I know the trend is fewer words and more images, but make sure the point of each page is clearly stated not only visually but also in your text copy.
  3. Don’t have music auto-load when the user opens up the website.  For someone hearing the site read out to them, this interferes and can be difficult to find where to turn the music off.
  4. Use Alt text for links.  I rarely do this, but think about it.  If you just post a text link in your page copy without including alternative text, the full link is read aloud, numbers and all, instead of “Link to Atlanta Plumber.”
  5. Flash cannot be read to a blind person.  Flash is read aloud as a button.  Google can’t read Flash, iPhones don’t display Flash, and the blind user can’t hear Flash.  If you are going to use Flash, don’t place it at the top section of the page.  This will be the first thing the blind user hears.  If your entire page is Flash, you have completely alienated the blind user.

You can find further information on website design at the links below:
American Foundation for the Blind

Erik Rostad

Author Erik Rostad

Erik Rostad started EPR Creations in May 2008. He works with universities, international organizations, and executives on their online presence.

More posts by Erik Rostad

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