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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Chelf

Don't forget the importance of digital accessibility

We are living in an increasingly digital world and most of the things we do in our day-to-day lives are centered on web-based content: communicating with friends and colleagues, shopping for groceries, finding directions to a destination, browsing social media, watching streaming shows and much more. However, the ease with which many of us use the web is not a universal experience. According to Magna, a leading global media investment and intelligence company, people with disabilities—including visual, hearing, speech, motor and cognitive impairments—represent roughly 15 percent of the global population. This estimate doesn’t include the elderly population, who may have varying levels of disability, as well as those who may have temporary disabilities that affect their ability to use the internet. This often-overlooked population is just as much part of your brand’s audience as its non-disabled members, but they are routinely—if unintentionally—excluded from accessing your content.

In the physical world, accommodations (e.g., braille signs, sidewalk ramps, audible crosswalk signals, and accessible heights for buttons, door handles and surfaces) are made to help people with disabilities navigate daily life. However, the digital world is significantly behind when it comes to equitable online access. For those with disabilities, barriers to use can include insufficient color contrast, lack of closed captioning on videos, no descriptive alt text for non-text elements, websites that require a mouse to operate, incorrectly used HTML tags and other user interface issues.

Magna recently conducted a survey with participants of varying disabilities to determine their media consumption habits as well as their thoughts on brands’ communication methods. The survey found that people with disabilities regularly consume all forms of content, particularly visual content, and that they favored social media the most. However, no matter the type of disability, many respondents found social media the most difficult to use due to the lack of accessibility features.

Unfortunately, this lack of accessibility has become a normalized experience for those with disabilities. When unable to access content on a website, respondents to the survey reported feeling frustrated, disappointed, ignored and isolated. They were much less likely to purchase from that brand or recommend it to others. When brands provide accessible content, though, people reported feeling satisfied, supported, included and relieved. They were also more likely to purchase from that brand and recommend it to others.

Increasing sales is not the reason brands should work towards improving their digital accessibility – it should be done to demonstrate a sincere commitment to serving all users, to show your brand is socially responsible and to ensure a positive experience for everyone regardless of ability. Inclusion and equity are the priorities when it comes to accessibility. It is no longer a “nice to have” feature on your website and social media – it is a “must.”

Unsure of where to start? Reach out to AOE today for guidance on improving your digital accessibility.



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