Reading More About WCAG 2.0 & SEO



January 10, 2009

I've been blogging a lot recently about accessibility.  This was started recently by the work that we have been doing around the Common Look and Feel of Government of Canada websites, but I've been involved in disability issues for a long time and so really would like to see the Internet be friendlier to a whole bunch of people with different abilities. 

If WCAG 2.0 is the current path to make information more accessible, it is in my best interests not only to have a checklist of items that our sites need in order to be Level A, AA or AAA compliant or more importantly get as many of them as I can incorporated into Drupal Core so that future releases are more accessible out of the box. 

Pretty much every CMS out there which can produce a list of articles or stories in them do so with a like that says something like "Read Me" or "Click to continue".  Unfortunately this is against the WCAG 2.0 Standards. 

The new standard proposed by WCAG 2.0 includes using CSS to hide elements that will interfere with a sighted persons display, the CSS they provide is:

a span { height: 1px; width: 1px; position: absolute; overflow: hidden; top: -10px; }

And the HTML that Drupal would need to produce is:

<a href="/comment/reply/17627/61407">reply to comment Without editing themes? within post Need for Unique Strings for Different Links</a>

And this is directly oppose to what many folks warn about hiding links and the dangers that can cause of search engines dropping a site's ranking.  So I started another thread, but this time in the Search Engine Optimization section of Drupal Groups.  The jury still seems to be out as to whether or not these links make any difference to a site's placement on
Google.  One person did even suggest that a rel="nofollow" attribute could be added to the link so that Google isn't confused.

My main point about this blog however is that it does seem like Google is indexing the phrase "Read me" (as can be seen by the image at the top of the post), but that it is in the top 100 phrases contained in the link text to our site. This is from Google Webmaster Tools

Would be quite interesting to run a high volume site through Google's Website Optimizer to find out conclusively if there would be an impact of adding this accessibility feature.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.