Website accessibility is fast becoming a priority for businesses in 2019 and 2020. On a certain level, it’s trendy. Because this is getting attention, companies are becoming more aware of the value in being inclusive. There is a renewed drive to be more accessible, to make products that are accessible, and to hire disabled.
Integrating basic accessibility techniques into a website improves the user experience for everyone. Not just the disabled. Here’s why website and content accessibility should be on all business’ radars:
- Seniors. The baby boomers are the largest demographic group in the USA. There are around 47 million seniors (age 65 and above). An estimated 4.2 million seniors have hearing problems. About 17% of seniors, 7.9 million, have “vision troubles”. 35.2% have a disability (pdf).
- Vision problems. 29.9 million (roughly 10%) Americans have trouble seeing with glasses or are legally blind.
- Autism Spectrum. Approximately 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
- Hearing. Approximately 3.5% of US population (about 11.5 million) have hearing problems. This statistic does not include the senior demographic group.
Here’s the big number.
1 in 5 Americans – about 20% – live with some type of disability.
65 million people.
Profit will follow
It’s hard to wrap your head around that number. 65 million people. Think about it this way: For every 100 leads your site successfully converts, you could’ve had 20 more customers or clients. If your business conducted $1 million in sales last year, how much more could it have made with that extra 20%? The potential for increased leads, sales, and brand loyalty is astounding.
The Americans with Disability Act was passed in 1990. This law improves the lives of disabled Americans, creates accessibility, and prevents discrimination. However, Internet was in its infancy, and the law didn’t address accessibility online.
However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 when creating accessible websites. It’s almost definite that the ADA law will be amended within the next five years to reflect the current and upcoming technologies. There are several lawsuits (as of 2019) centering around this very issue. It’s inevitable that one will end up before the Supreme Court.
While making a website accessible is not a legal requirement — for now — there are several other reasons to implement the change.
Incentives to make websites accessible
- Enhances your brand. Studies show that when companies demonstrate a genuine commitment to inclusivity in their marketing, they experience a number of benefits: improved brand image and reputation, increased sales, and boosted brand loyalty.
- Extends your market reach. The global market of people with disabilities is 1 billion people with a spending power of over $6 trillion. In the United States alone, their discretionary spending totals $200 billion annually. In short, by changing your website and business scope to include this demographic group, you’ll reap the rewards.
American Life at NPR created transcripts for their radio broadcasts and podcasts and shared it online. They found their organic traffic increased by 6.8%, unique visitors increased 4.18%, and inbound links to these transcripts increased by 3.89%.
- Minimizes your legal risk. While USA laws doesn’t require accessibility compliance (as of 2019), it will in the next few years. If your business operates internationally, it may be subject to other countries’ laws, some of which have digital accessibility requirements. Subsequently, by putting a good faith effort in making your site accessible now, you’re minimizing the risk of becoming embroiled in a legal battle down the road.
- Drives innovation. By removing barriers, new opportunities and ideas often will arise. For example, text-to-voice (and vice versa) was born to aid the blind and people with physical impairments. The technology found a much broader application. It is now used globally with smartphones and voice-recognition devices. Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. Autocomplete and autocorrect, likewise, were created to help disabled people and is used in word processors and texting apps on many devices.
This begs the question of: how? How can a website be altered to be more accessible? How can a marketer integrate it into their campaigns?
Accessibility and Websites
There are several ways to make a website more accessible. The following list is not by any mean comprehensive.
- Alt tags. Alt tags are a html attribute that are attached to an image or graphic. Its purpose is to describe an image. In html markup, it looks like this: <img src =”image-location” alt=”this is where your image description goes”>.
Many people leave the “alt” section blank. However, when a blind person uses a device called a screen reader, which uses the alt tag to describe an image. A blank or a very simple description isn’t very helpful.
- Captions and transcripts. Providing text transcripts or captions for podcasts, radio, and videos benefits everyone. Not just the deaf. For example, some people cannot listen to audio in a noisy environment like at an office. Others learn better by reading. Not to mention, providing a transcript benefits you because it makes it easier for Google to index the contents, improves your SEO, and allows people to backlink to your site.
- Low/high contrast colors. Allowing people to temporarily, cosmetically change the colors on your website improves their user experience. Other users browsing your site in challenging or different lighting conditions, such as sunlight and glare, may benefit, too.
- Keyboard-friendly. Not everyone can use a mouse or a trackpad to navigate a website. Instead, they’ll use a keyboard – usually the tab key – to navigate.
- Resizable text. Considering how many seniors and people with vision problems are online, allowing them to resize text is a boon.
Accessibility and Content
For most part, content does not need to change to be disability-inclusive. However, there are a few things a content marketer or writer should keep in mind when creating content for marketing campaigns and websites.
Web friendly content
People consume content online differently from print. Web users typically scan the text, skimming for interesting or relevant information. To this end, you should have a good understanding of your target audience and what they’re looking to accomplish. This will help you decide what information should be viewed first, choose the headers and subheaders, and how to organize your content.
By knowing your audience (it’s helpful to create a persona or two), you can write meaningful, valuable content.
- Word choice. When deciding what keywords a content will use, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What keywords would they use?
- Language level. An average American reads at 7th or 8th grade level. Write at your target audience’s education level. If you’re not sure, aim for 7th or 8th grade.
- Sections and paragraphs. Break long text up into smaller chunks. Alternate the size/length of paragraphs. Ditto sentences. This makes reading on small devices like smartphones easier. Single-sentence paragraphs are a-okay.
- Active voice. The active voice is more engaging and interesting. For example, “I read a book.” Not, “I was reading a book.”
- Bullets and lists. Bullets and lists re-package information into a more concise, readable format.
- Headers and subheads. They help tell your audience what the next section is about and aids their skimming habit. It lets them decide if they want to read it more quickly, thus improving their user experience on your site.
- Graphics, images, and diagrams. Images help break up the text and give your readers’ eyes a break. It also helps people better understand complicated data.
- White space. Use spacers to help break up large blocks of text. Works similarly to images.
- Structure/layout. Open each section with the most important or relevant information.
By making a concerted, genuine effort to include the disabled community, you’ll see positive outcome. More leads. Customers. Revenue. Brand loyalty. Make them a seamless part of your marketing strategy, rather than an afterthought.
If you’re not sure where or how to get started, contact me anytime.