Expand your reach. Grow your business. Make a positive impact on your audience and markets.
Sounds good, right? Well, what if I told you that these goals are within closer reach than you might think? That’s where accessibility comes into play.
Today, weaving accessibility into your digital marketing strategy is more important than ever — in fact, it’s practically essential. By ensuring convenience and usability for all individuals, you ultimately have greater potential for growth and, often, more meaningful consumer engagements. What’s more, there’s a good chance accessibility is also a key component of your compliance and legal requirements.
Read on for more information about how your business can remove accessibility barriers for the most valuable content marketing result.
Your Guide To Accessibility in Digital Marketing
Digital accessibility is the inclusive practice of decreasing obstacles that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites, digital tools and technologies — so that everyone, including people with disabilities, can use them as easily as possible.
Translated to content marketing, this accessibility involves finding ways to ensure all users can fully experience your brand, receive and understand communication, and take advantage of opportunities to engage with the company, services or products.
When designing an accessible website or creating accessible digital content, here are some of the disabilities your business needs to take into account:
- Blindness and visual impairment.
- Deafness and hearing loss.
- Speech disabilities.
- Physical disabilities or limited movement.
- Neurological limitations (e.g., epilepsy, cerebral palsy, etc.).
- Cognitive limitations (e.g., dyslexia, learning disabilities, etc.).
What Is the Americans With Disabilities Act and How Does It Impact Your Accessibility Requirements in the United States (U.S.)?
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including communications. However, when it comes to accessibility standards for digital marketers to follow, this piece of legislation can be a bit vague. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has affirmed that every website in the U.S. should be accessible, but with no defined standard for website accessibility, the DOJ has cited WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the golden guidelines to abide by.
What About Accessibility in the European Union (EU)?
In recent decades, the EU’s governing bodies have been leaders in creative, functional approaches to providing equal online access for all individuals. Borne out of continuous initiatives to address accessibility issues, organizations across the EU public sector are required to comply with The EU Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act.
Complying With Accessibility Guidelines in Australia (AU)
According to the Australian Network on Disability, 1 in 5 people in Australia have some form of disability. To ensure those living with certain limitations have equal access to products and services, businesses across the continent are obligated to abide by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). Because of this, a lack of compliance with the DDA will not only impact your long-term potential revenue but can also lead to time-consuming and costly legal ramifications.
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Why Accessibility is Important For Your Business
With the advancements we’ve seen in technology and digital marketing in recent years — which were considerably expedited in response to the pandemic — content and data are more widely and readily available than ever. But, to the dismay of digital marketers across industries, availability and accessibility are not one and the same.
As a result, individuals in the marketing space today are embracing and prioritizing accessibility, both as a moral imperative and an effective strategy to reach the largest portion of their target audience. Ultimately, web accessibility and assistive technology are increasingly vital because:
- More and more people are using the internet today.
- Desktops and tablets still generate the highest conversion rates.
- Disabilities of all types are increasing, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Let’s focus on the last point: Disabilities of all types are increasing. This bears repeating because it highlights just how critical it is to mitigate accessibility barriers for those who need extra support. The WHO reports that 16% of the global population has a disability — that equates to an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide! These increasing numbers are attributed to growth in noncommunicable diseases because of modifiable risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol.
The Risks of Inaccessibility
In the age of the internet, accessibility is crucial. Without convenience and user-friendliness at the heart of your marketing content and website designs, your business runs the risk of:
- Alienating and missing out on a remarkably large segment of users.
- Failing to convert potential customers due to a poor user experience.
- Facing costly legal action or being prosecuted for failing to comply with accessibility standards.
- Fostering a poor company reputation.
Despite these risks, the rise of disabilities across the globe and growing efforts to improve accessible marketing, a 2021 study from WebAIM (web accessibility in mind) found that 96.8% of website home pages contained Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) failures.
This isn’t just a large portion of websites, it’s almost all of them.
Fortunately, while the vast majority of content and websites today are currently falling short in terms of accessibility, that means there’s just as much room for improvement. Let’s take a closer look at the standards your website and marketing content should follow and how you can incorporate accessibility best practices into your digital marketing strategy moving forward.
Digital Accessibility Requirements
As your business makes content or website modifications to better support individuals with impairments, there are a few valuable accessibility standards to steer you in the right direction. Published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) govern web accessibility. These directives essentially provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that helps ensure you’re doing your due diligence in this regard.
According to the WCAG standards, your website should be:
- Perceivable: Every user or disabled person should be able to see and read the site — even those who are visually impaired.
- Operable: Your site should be receptive and simple to operate across devices.
- Understandable: The information provided on your website should be presented in a clear, understandable manner.
- Robust: Your website should be able to interact with assistive technology tools.
If your digital strategy and content are aligned with the WCAG techniques and you’ve completed testing to ensure a streamlined user experience, it’s safe to assume you’re heading in the right direction toward hosting an accessible website. If you’re not sure whether your website is user-friendly for all individuals, take a look at this web accessibility checklist for a clear overview of where you stand.
How To Become More Digitally Accessible
Put simply, accessibility matters. And, if your content isn’t designed with accessibility top of mind, you’re inevitably ostracizing a substantial community of people across the world. This is not only a threat to every disabled person’s right to the same opportunities as individuals without limitations, but also has far-reaching impacts on your business.
The Best Practices To Ensure Accessible Digital Marketing
If you’re in pursuit of creating more inclusive and accessible marketing moving forward, here are some of the top methods to do so successfully:
- Include alt-text or captions on informational images and graphics: Adding image descriptions with alt-text helps screen readers and assistive technologies explain your images to visually-impaired users. While this can be leveraged to boost SEO on the page, overlooking alt-text can be a detriment to your content’s accessibility. This text should be a concise, accurate description of the image that provides contextual information to the reader.
- Use the appropriate contrast ratio on your website: The contrast ratio of your content — the amount of contrast between the background and foreground colors — is a simple adjustment that can do wonders for your accessibility. WCAG guidelines state that text and images of text need to have a contrast ratio of 4.5:1, unless the font is larger than size 18 (in which case, a contrast ratio of 3:1 is the standard to follow). If you’re not sure about the ratio of your website or content, you can leverage helpful resources, like this color contrast checker from WebAIM, to guarantee a suitable contrast ratio.
- Include coding for screen readers: Readers with a variety of disabilities, including visual impairments, reading disorders and cognitive limitations, leverage screen readers to read and interact with web pages. Because such a large segment of the population relies on this assistive technology, ensuring content and designs are created with screen reader optimization in mind will be a crucial piece of your accessible marketing puzzle.
- Provide transcripts for videos or add captions: Captions and transcripts are distinctive tools that help guarantee your video and audio content can be available to all users. Captioning includes timestamped transcriptions that sync with the audio in a video, while transcripts involve converting speech and audio into a written format. Ensuring these are accurate and effectively used is a critical portion of improving your marketing accessibility.
- Incorporate accessible designs: Avoiding complexity and emphasizing simplicity when designing content for your marketing communications or campaigns is the best approach to make sure users with disabilities or impairments can fully engage with your brand.
The Benefits of Accessibility
Digital marketing accessibility ultimately offers valuable advantages that are hard to ignore:
- Improve the user experience: Every business is in pursuit of long-term customer retention and loyalty, but that’s practically impossible today without focusing on or improving your customer experience (CX). With digital accessibility as a core priority from the start, your brand can differentiate itself from competitors with user-friendly content and a streamlined user experience that meets growing customer expectations.
- Boost your SEO: Most businesses tend to overlook the positive impact that website accessibility has on their SEO efforts: In fact, search engines reward accessibility features including alt text, header tags, video descriptions and more. Reaping these SEO benefits will go a long way toward making your website and content more visible and driving conversions in the long run.
- Promote customer growth: Because individuals living with disabilities represent such a considerable portion of consumers, they have a tremendous amount of spending power that shouldn’t be disregarded. Refining your accessibility inevitably widens your audience and increases your reach to these prospective customers.
Ensuring your digital marketing and website are created with an emphasis on accessibility isn’t just valuable for compliance, it’s a smart and moral business decision. This makes your digital content a more welcoming place for all individuals while helping you reach the largest segment of your target audience. At the end of the day, focusing on accessibility benefits everyone by improving inclusivity and making content easier to consume — and the need for greater digital accessibility won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.