Peter Abrahams, Practice Leader from Bloor Research, published an interesting article about how paying attention to site accessibility will improve the shopping experience for impaired users as well as the Internet community at large. In his article "Improved Accessible Search with Elastic Path" at IT Analysis, Mr. Abrahams outlines a few scenarios and explains navigation methods used by impaired shoppers and suggests a few key enhancements - i.e. product specific page URLs and relevant landing pages and accurate titles and descriptions - to help relevant pages float to the top of the search engine rankings.
In his narrative, Peter also advises optimizing your ecommerce store for web visitors using screen readers or speech recognition for text input by using filterable search results plus breadcrumbs navigation history as well as allowing multiple ways to search (i.e. by SKU, name, brand etc.) and holds up Elastic Path's Optimize technology used in BEA AquaLogic Commerce Services as an example.
BEA have recently announced a new version of AquaLogic Commerce Server which includes search engine optimisation technologies from Elastic Path which will help the searcher with a disability as well as the time-poor searcher.
Elastic Path - Optimize - ensures that pages are well formed for the search engine spiders to gather complete and accurate index information.
And there are more benefits too ... by making your shop easier to navigate and making 'longtail' product pages more findable, you will be greatly appreciated by the shopper with a disability who hates browsing through dozens of useless search results - as well as enjoying more fruitful organic search results with fantastic ROI leading to a wider audience across the Internet.
As Abrahams puts forth,
I also believe that designing the searches with impaired users in mind will highlight any usability issues and hence further improve the experience for the whole e-buyer community.
Additional Reading on this topic:
Peter Abrahams' Accessibility and Search Engine Optimisation article and Massive business case for accessibility