Why Your Brand Needs to Prioritize Digital Accessibility

Published: 09-Feb-2022
Last Updated: 09-Jan-2022
Why Your Brand Needs to Prioritize Digital Accessibility

With the world deep in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the lines between possibilities and impossibilities have blurred. Think about the sci-fi future promised by Zuckerberg's Metaverse keynote

Thanks to the emergence of new technologies, different sectors of society can undergo digital transformation to provide better products and services and an overall more satisfying experience while staying competitive and relevant.

However, even with the recent innovations promising to make fantasies into reality, why is it that digital accessibility remains a dream for many? Even in today’s increasingly digital world, accessibility is still challenging to come by. 

A 2020 study by WebAIM found that 98% of the world's top one million websites are not catering to the needs of disabled users. Another WebAim survey showed a concerning trend: 60% of surveyed screen reader users felt digital content has either made no progress or gotten worse. 

In 2016 the UN declared internet access a human right and the COVID-19 pandemic showed businesses and consumers alike the importance of the internet to a world in lockdown. Imagine the fear and frustration felt by customers with disabilities during COVID-19 when suddenly they were forced to rely on websites that weren't designed with accessibility in mind for essentials.  

The Digital Accessibility Issue

The internet may have allowed the majority of the world access to a vast source of information and services, but this doesn’t apply to everyone. When you built your website, mobile app, or software, did you consider if it can be easily used by someone with a disability that affects their motor functions, hearing, or vision?

Although both accessibility and usability fall under the user experience umbrella, they are not one and the same. Instead of designing satisfying, effective, and efficient products, accessibility focuses on developing universal products that offer an equivalent user experience for every kind of person.

Society is evolving rapidly, but what many seem to forget is that disadvantaged demographics don’t have equal access to the internet and internet devices. Unfortunately, a part of the population is being left behind. As a business owner, you must be responsible for ensuring that all kinds of people can use your product or service without any problems.

Accessibility Resources

Web designers make design decisions.

The first step to raising accessibility standards is education. Business managers, developers, and marketers should work to educate themselves further on relevant disabilities, accessibility barriers, assistive technologies, accessibility guidelines, and accessibility testing tools. 

Types of Users Who May Have Difficulty Accessing the Internet

You might just think of the blind as those affected by your accessibility efforts (or lack of), but there is a wide range of individuals whose disabilities affect their internet use.  

The Disability Community affected includes: 

  • Individuals with Visual Disabilities 
  • Individuals with Impaired Hearing
  • Individuals with Age-Related Disabilities 
  • Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities 
  • Individuals with Physical Disabilities
  • Individuals with Speech Disabilities

Familiarizing yourself with the struggles of these individuals and what devices they use to access the internet will help your team understand how to create an accessible design. 

Assistive Technologies Used by the Disability Community

Many of us don't know how those with disabilities access the internet because it doesn't affect us. Familiarity with assistive technology is essential to creating accessibility for users. It's the same concept as optimizing your website for Google's algorithm. You also want to design your website for screen reader software or the targeted assistive technology. 

Here are some assistive technologies you should familiarize yourself with:

Learning about the different types of assistive technologies and those who use them will help you on your digital accessibility journey.

Guides for Creating Accessible Content

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) were established and maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium. They were created to help businesses meet the needs of those with disabilities. Their website is routinely updated by their accessibility experts and should be your go-to guide for the latest accessibility standards and inclusive design practices. 

WCAG guidelines are based on four principles that are commonly referred to by the acronym POUR. POUR stands for Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. The guidelines establish 3 levels of accessibility (Level A, Level AA, Level AAA). Level AAA is the highest level of accessibility. 

Why you Should Care About Digital Accessibility

Man plugs internet cable into router.

If someone is interested in your product or service, you want them to be able to access and use your website, mobile app, etc. to do business with you.

Here are a few reasons to help you justify investing in a digital accessibility program:

It Is a Legal Right

In a world that's becoming increasingly internet-dependent, it's important for businesses to address accessibility issues. People with disabilities have rights just like the able-bodied population. Besides the right to education, employment, and family life, they also have a right as consumers to receive fair access and accommodation to your products or services.

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn't explicitly address business websites and mobile apps, but the language is broad enough that it applies. In 2020, there were 3,500 cases ADA website cases filed. Members of US Congress are currently attempting to update the ADA to include digital accessibility. We suggest getting ahead of this increase in lawsuits and potential legislation. 

It Builds a Positive Reputation

Emphasizing digital accessibility can help your brand create a positive image. When you disregard the people who have a disability or know someone with a disability, many will immediately lose respect for your company. 

Well, you can’t blame them—would you care about a brand that doesn’t care about you? If you don’t want to lose potential customers forever, you must take digital accessibility seriously.

It Helps With Talent Acquisition

Just like how remote work broke boundaries and broadened the candidate pool for promising talents, digital accessibility can also lead you to the best talents! When you have accessible platforms for people with disabilities, you’ll have greater chances of meeting an applicant suitable for the job.

Overlap with Search Engine Optimization

You don't have to choose between creating content that is optimized for SEO or accessibility. Putting thought into page titles, images, alt text, consistent navigation, and readability benefits both disciplines. That being said, there are differences in the way search engines and assistive technologies function. We suggest hiring developers and web content staff that are familiar with SEO and accessibility standards to execute a strategy that accounts for both. 

Decrease Bounce Rate

According to the U.K.’s 2016 Click-Away Pound Survey, 71% of individuals with disabilities will abandon a website that doesn't provide an accessible digital experience. You might think that the number of disabled internet user is a statistically insignificant population. You would be mistaken! There are over 60 million adults in the United States with an estimated post-tax disposable income of about $490 billion. That makes ignoring accessibility measures bad business. 

It's the Right Thing to Do

Last but not least, making your business accessible to ALL people is the right thing to do. We aren't getting on a high horse, but don't those with disabilities have enough to worry about? Businesses have accepted that they need to build ramps and provide handicap parking. So let's accept that providing an accessible digital experience is a logical extension. We want to challenge the business community to increase its commitment to accessibility, even reaching Level A WCAG compliance will make a significant difference in user experience for the disabled. 

Wrap Up

Don’t get stuck in the past—invest in digital accessibility today! Of course, integrating digital accessibility is easier said than done, and there’s a lot to learn about it. But disability inclusion on the web will not be ignored by governments for much longer and businesses must adapt to provide an online experience for all. Don't be a business that is forced to provide an inclusive experience. Be a business that was ahead of the curve! As long as you work with an agency experienced in working on digital accessibility for businesses, you’re sure to be able to provide quality products and services to anyone who needs them! Do you need to make your digital experience more accessible but don’t know where to start? Then, let our team at Carbon Digital help you! Our marketing agency will provide the highest quality of service for our clients and government contracts. Get a free website audit today!

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