Being Freed
Being Freed
Being Freed

Headings and Website Accessibility

Headings and Website Accessibility go hand-in-hand. For sight-impaired users, well-written headings are website gold.
Headings & Website Accessibility. This image shows the graphical interface WordPress uses to choose heading style.

First: general thoughts on headings and subheadings

Readers like to scan a page before committing to the whole read, so making sure your headings and subheadings clearly outline your copy helps your site visitors.  Headings act as a page index, allowing readers to glance down the page and decide whether they will stay to read the whole post. 

If you have a long section, break it up with subheadings.  Breaking up your article with well-placed headings helps your readers with both visual cues and content organization so, in turn, helps your SEO.  Subheadings also help readers jump quickly to the content they want, keeping them on the page.

What are page readers?

Page readers are software used to access websites.  They may convert the text to speech or to brail output, and they make it easier for visually impaired people to use your website.

The bigger search engines such as Chrome and Firefox have extensions that read pages, and there are third-party apps as well. 

The American Foundation for the Blind has an extensive list of screen readers available today, here.

Headings and accessibility

Headings are essential components used by page readers.  Similarly to using ALT text in images, organizing your content with well-written headings improves the accessibility of your blog, and your site in general.

Headings are in HTML, which means screen readers can read them out loud.  Integrating a good heading structure makes your content easier to use than content on pages that don’t use this simple tool.

A quick video search will get you a pile of videos demonstrating how screen readers use headings, but I like Vision Australia Digital Access’ one here.

Don’t skip heading levels

It may be tempting to skip from H1 to H3, for some aesthetic reason, but it’s not good practice.  It can make the page confusing to someone using a page reader, who may assume that if there’s no H2, there will be no H3. 

Accessibility and (American) law

As I write this post, accessibility is required by law in the United states as spelled in out in the ADA’s article on website accessibility, here.  Unfortunately, as with (for example) a restaurant located on the top floor of a building with no access but stairs, many websites don’t comply with this statute.  It takes extra time and effort to make sure a website is accessible, and like SEO, it often falls to the bottom of the task list. 

According to the ADA’s page linked above, there are no detailed guidelines, and state and local governments have autonomy on how they enforce the standards.  A little flimsy, in my view, and probably why so many sites aren’t accessible. 

My website

As of this writing my website needs work.  If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that my topics follow my course of study.  Now that I understand this aspect of website accessibility, I’ll be incorporating it into all my (and my client’s) designs.  The bigger project?  I’ll be going back over my previous posts to restructure.  TBH, I’ve been doing that anyway, so this is just adding to the list of things I’m amending.  These kinds of edits take a while, so I’ll be editing one post a week until I catch up.  I did a similar sweep of my site after writing my post on Alt text on images.  One step at a time.

Use a template for design consistency and accessibility

This isn’t exclusively about accessibility, but it’s good practice all around and it makes it easier to build consistently styled content.  Building a template for pages, posts, and mailings that incorporates headings helps you bake in accessibility while making it faster to build. 

One more thing

Search engines love headings and Subheadings!  Because of their HTML nature, search engines use them to scan your pages and understand the content.  If your page is just a series of paragraphs, Google has no idea what to do with it.  With good headings, your site will be offered up more often in search results.

Using a consistent structure of headings and subheadings helps all your readers, and it helps with your SEO.  Win-win!

For more on accessibility and website design, click the images below for my posts on Color Blindness and Alt Text and Image Descriptions.

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Freed with her ukulele while scuba diving

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Like my posts? Toss me a tip!

digital nomad hiker drysuit diver queer woman sober ukulele player scorpio Tough Mudder goofball

Freed with her ukulele while scuba diving

All content © by Freed

Want to know more about what I do?  When I have a new post?  Where I’ve been lately?  (I do get around.)  Sign up for my mailing list below.  I promise to not fill your inbox with junk.