With the release if Version 2.2 of the very popular Genesis Framework by StudioPress, you can help improve your website's Search Engine Results Page (SERP) ranking because it is now Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 compliant right out of the box.
A Brief History
In 1998, the United States Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The amended law authorized the Access Board to write the standards, which it published in 2000. Anticipating the need, the the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 [WCAG10] as a recommendation in May 1999. Published in 2008, WCAG 2.0 succeeds Wag 1.0. The W3C is an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C's mission is to lead the Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web. W3C's standards define key parts of what makes the World Wide Web work.
WCAG 2.0 & Developers
The WC3 WCAG 2.0 abstract states:
WCAG 2.0 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general.
For developers who believe that they are “only required” to meet legal standards such as Section 508 of the (United States) Rehabilitation Act, WCAG 2.0 seems to be “just more work”. However, this is not the case. While it takes greater effort to implement an accessible site, it's just the right thing to do to assure that anyone who wants to access a site can access the site and enjoy the full experience intend for that site's visitors.
The Accessibility Project (A11Y) is a community driven effort to help make it easier for developers to implement accessibility features. In response to the question, “Why is accessibility important?”, they state:
Blind and visually impaired make up 285,000,000 people according to the World Health Organization (June 2012) with 39,000,000 categorized as legally blind and the remaining 246,000,000 visually impaired. Deaf and hearing impaired make up 275,000,000 (2004) in the moderate-to-profound hearing impairment category.
To put these in perspective, the population of the United States of America is 315,000,000 (January 2013)
Accessibility is so important that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) recognizes Web accessibility as a basic human right.
Accessibility and SEO
Accessibility as a goal is the result of doing many things right. Doing things right is extremely important to Google and impacts your SERP ranking. To mention just how important this is to SEO, Google Accessibility Engineer Loretta Guarino Reid serves as Co-Chair on the WCAG Working Group and is one of the editors of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, and Google maintains an entire site dedicated to their accessibility initiatives, which extend far beyond the World Wide Web.
As far we know, Genesis Version 2.2 is the first professional web development framework to include accessibility capabilities for headings, drop down menus, skip links, rems, and the WordPress search form. Kudos to the Studio Press development team for doing things right and accomplishing this monumental achievement.