How digital accessibility improves your brand's experience?

Konabos Inc. - Konabos

16 May 2021

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Accessible marketing is often overlooked by both marketers and designers - through no malicious intent - and this means that millions of potential customers are excluded due to this blind spot. Whereas most people don't even think twice about a website's functionality, those with disabilities can literally be left out from even accessing important and engaging content. So many of us obsess over our click-through rates and customer engagement activities, we sometimes forget that making our site accessible to all is also good for our brand, SEO, and, ultimately, our conversion rate.

Have you ever thought about your brand's accessibility? Let's explore a few ways that you can make sure your site and your content resonate with the millions of people around the world living with a disability.

What exactly is accessibility?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines disability as the interaction between individuals with a health condition and personal and environmental factors. A perfect real-life example would be building a three-story building with no elevator. This would make it difficult, or impossible, for someone in a wheelchair, with a broken leg, or a heavily pregnant woman to access without difficulty. In some cases, disabilities are not permanent (like a broken bone or an infection that temporarily reduces full functionality), but the need for accessibility is the same, nonetheless.

What does this mean for your marketing?

The WHO estimates that over 1 billion people worldwide suffer from a disability. In the United States alone, 1 in 5 Americans identifies as disabled (that comes out to 65 million people). People with disabilities have high disposable income, and many would have the power to take their business elsewhere to obtain better accessibility. This is a huge market, and companies need to pay attention or risk losing to the competition.

Not only could the lack of accessibility prevent companies from increasing their revenue, but it also discriminates against those with disabilities by denying them the same opportunities as abled people. Being inclusive and sensitive to everyone's needs influences business opportunities and will reflect negatively on brands that downplay its importance in the world.

How to make your content accessible

You want to make sure that your message is understood by as many people as possible. Whether it is through your website, your blog, your email marketing campaigns, your videos, your advertising, or much more. The idea is to step back and put yourself in someone else's shoes. There are many ways to make your content accessible; let's look at a few below.

1. Use Alt-text for images wisely

There are two types of images: purely decorative and informative or descriptive; the latter is usually the most common form of images found on social media. The purpose of using images is to communicate a message. In the case of the visually impaired, the description associated with the picture will make all the difference in making their user experience pleasant.

Whether an image is decorative or descriptive, it still needs the appropriate alt-text to help the screen reader transmit the most accurate information to the user. A decorative picture does not provide substantial information. It only serves to enhance the page's look, so setting the alt attribute to null is satisfactory in this case.

However, informative images, such as charts, needs to be descriptive so that a visually impaired user can make sense of the content. If, for example, your chart breaks down the top-rated summer activities in the city, you wouldn't want to provide a bland alt-text such as "Chart of favorite summer activities" as this would be of no added value to the reader. A good alternative would be to describe the image, "The chart shows the city's most popular summer activities by percentage: walking 40%, swimming 20%, jogging 18%, team sports 15%, and camping 7%".

This would accurately represent your chart and allow your audience to understand your core message.

2. Use descriptive and unique anchor texts

Sprinkling "Learn More" or "Click Here" anchor texts in your content is just bad SEO practice. However, for visually impaired people who rely on screen readers, it can be confusing to hear it out of context, leading to a poor user experience. A link text should describe the content and inform your reader of what to expect, and it should fit with the flow of your writing. So instead of writing "Click here to learn more," you could note, "To learn more, check out our blog post on digital marketing 101"—much clearer for the user and better for SEO purposes.

3. Readability

People with cognitive disabilities need to be able to read and follow your content with flow and ease. Keep your sentences short and relevant and add headings to divide your thoughts. Keep your point to no more than a few sentences and use bullet points when appropriate.

Important information should be placed in bold for easy scanning. Complicated thoughts or industry jargon should be kept at a minimum, or if possible, removed entirely. When feasible, use short summaries to guide the reader back to the main point.

4. Design with your audience in mind

Sans serif fonts (Arial and Helvetica) are the easiest to read as they lack the serif marking at the end. By limiting the number of fonts (ideally one or two per piece) and keeping it at a minimum size of 12, you increase the chances of providing the best user experience possible for your reader. When using colors, it is important to keep a strong contrast between the font and the background to make the content legible.

If you use data, such as statistical graphs, keep in mind the millions of people that suffer from some level of color blindness and cannot easily differentiate reds from greens. Communicating a message through colors alone can easily confuse the reader; try using patterns as an alternative to the color scheme: bold lines, squiggles, dots, and stripes are all options.

5. Video Captions

Society's obsession with video content shows no signs of slowing down. Using captions in your videos should not even be pondered at this point. Those with hearing impairments rely on captions to absorb and interact with your content. Images alone are not enough when it comes to video marketing. Closed captioning is also helpful for those in a noisy environment and those who are not fluent in your language of communication. Expand your reach through captions.

Accessible marketing doesn't usually require a massive revamp of your current content. In the name of inclusivity, legislation is now being created to ensure that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else to access great online content. Marketers and content creators are the voice of the company, and it is our job to make sure that we use the tools we have to make our brand stand out and stand up for those who have been marginalized for so long. So next time you start a new piece of content, take a moment and ask yourself “who will this be accessible to?”.

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