Boost your bottom line with accessibility

No matter where your digital communications and marketing efforts are focused, you have users who have a disability. It only makes sense to include them and offer a way for them to access digital content.

Kristina Podnar
January 21, 2020

What's the best gift you ever received as a child? Was it something you'd begged for or something unexpected that introduced you to a new interest? Do you remember what it was like to unwrap the gift and experience pure joy (or even surprise!)? That is what many individuals feel like when they see you announce your new website or marketing campaign. But those with an auditory, cognitive, physical, visual, and speech disability may never get to have the experience because you forgot or failed to design and develop with accessibility in mind.

Should you think about accessibility?

Yes. I will spare you the lecture about accessibility being the right thing to do, and get to the bottom line:

In other words, no matter where your digital communications and marketing efforts are focused, you have users who have a disability. Their disability may not always prevent them from using your website or digital content, but at the very least, they have a terrible user experience. And what's the worst thing that can be happening? Users can be frustrated, unable to access information or buy your product, and are sharing their sentiments with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers on social media.

But I'm in politics, B2B, <insert why this doesn't apply to you but does excuse here>

I appreciate that everyone is unique. We all are in our way. The reality is that if you create digital content or own a digital channel, you need to consider at least making it accessible.

  • Accessibility is especially at home in politics. I recently addressed the fact that all 2020 US Presidential candidates are failing when it comes to digital integrity, which includes accessibility.
  • B2B organizations sometimes (mistakenly) believe that if they are not dealing directly with consumers, they don’t have to create accessible content. That’s just plain wrong. You might be a B2B organization, and thus your risk of a lawsuit might be lower, but it’s still there. After all, your business partners have people working for them, and those people may have a disability. And yes, you have people working in your organization, including those with disabilities that require accessible content on the Intranet or in other collaboration tools.
  • Even if your organization doesn’t face a lawsuit or you don’t operate in a country where accessibility is legally mandated, you still need to think about user experience. And user experience is fundamentally intertwined with accessibility. You need to Stop Designing For Only 85% Of Users!

Oh, but you’re too busy.

We all are. It’s a fact of organizations driving us to be more efficient, using new tools and technologies to reach individuals faster, easier, and ultimately cheaper. Everyone should think about accessibility now, and more importantly, you should start taking action now. Why?

  • I just told you the numbers. They speak for themselves. Regardless of your industry, a growing percentage of your customers has a disability. Don’t you want to sell to them? And don’t you want them to recommend your service or product to others?
  • You can eat the competition’s lunch. Yes! Given two similar products or services, one represented by an unusable website or one that offers quick access to information and purchasing opportunity, which would you choose? Right, we all would choose the latter. This means that there can be only one winner of the challenge, either you or your competitor. So will those with a disability. So which website experience do you want to provide?
  • Gain ease of mind, and tell your leadership and board of directors that they, too, can rest easy. After all, in the US and other countries, accessibility is legally mandated. Since courts and governments have ruled that accessibility must be provided to users in these countries, consumers are using lawsuits as a way to get organizations’ attention and force accessible digital development. With legal action and headlines on the rise, will you be next? And are your executives comfortable with seeing themselves on the front page of the news in this context? I’m guessing not, so best get on with it.

In a world where your to-do list only grows, and you barely can get a breather, accessibility can be a tough issue to take on. The great news is that whether you are just getting started with accessibility for your digital channels, could use improvements to existing practices, or need to start holding vendors accountable, and it doesn't have to be an "all or nothing" approach. You can take on accessibility in stages, and work at it over time. Most everyone does!

Great, you can spare an hour or two!

Glad you found a bit of time to get started (or improve!) upon your accessibility practices. Let’s quickly map out your actions.

The two most basic accessibility tasks you should have on your list are:

  • Accessibility policy documented for everyone working in the digital space
  • Accessibility statement posted to digital channels
  • Accessibility tags added to content in a digital channel(s)

Don’t have a policy documented or need to write a statement? There are lots of resources out there, including my book (see page 73, The Power of Digital Policy). If you’ve addressed these basic tasks, move on to ensuring accessibility is part of your digital channels. I like to ensure I create a checklist and work on the new, yet to be developed content set first. Things to think about and include are:

  • Add closed-captioning to any videos on your website (YouTube’s automatic captioning is very good in most cases, but take the opportunity to review and edit where necessary).
  • Make sure there’s adequate contrast between your site’s text and the background. Faint text on a busy background can present an obstacle for people with decreased vision—even people in their 50s with typical vision for their age are often frustrated by gray text on a white background.
  • Make sure your site can easily be navigated with just a keyboard—this ensures you’ve properly coded the page content to be accessible to those with a disability.
  • Add captions and alt-text to images—so they can be read by assistive devices.

There is a benefit to "grandfather" content and not trying to solve accessibility issues for all of your legacy content. It is simply too large of an item to tackle at once, and usually, you have to keep the business going, which means no looking back. Consider focusing first on the new content you are creating (or will create if developing a new marketing campaign or taking on a website redesign) and then take on actual content. My advice is to establish a practice of making content or pages accessible every time you update something else on the page. In other words, need to update the "About Us" page with the name of your new CEO? Go for it, and make sure to tap your accessibility checklist for other changes you need to make to the page while you are there.

Need additional help?

I get that accessibility is like chasing the excellence dream. It is something that all of us agree is a great idea, but reality can sink in, and accessibility takes a back seat. Don't let it. If you need a hand to make accessibility a part of your digital world, reach out, and I will lend a hand. I can refer you to accessibility specialists, introduce you to individuals who can set you up with digital (website and mobile app) accessibility scanning tools, or provide tips on holding your digital agency accountably for delivering accessible digital content.

Whatever you do, make sure that accessibility is part of your digital practice as we get 2020 under way. You will thank yourself a year from now!

Photo by yang miao

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