Why and how to improve web accessibility

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In our digital-driven society, as marketers, we are creating more content online than ever. But are we doing everything we can to ensure that our content is accessible to all users of all abilities?

For far too many of us, the answer is no.

Most online content contains accessibility barriers for people with disabilities, preventing them from participating in the digital experiences we create. Additionally, accessibility barriers reduce usability for all users.

Examples of barriers include sites that are not structured properly to allow navigation and logical reading order for a blind visitor using a screen reader; experiences that cannot be navigated successfully using a keyboard instead of a mouse for users with limited mobility or other physical challenges; and the lack of captions, transcripts and descriptive text for deaf users.

In the United States alone, 61 million adults, or more than 25% of the population, identify as having some form of disability. This is a significant proportion of our audiences, and they have the right to have equal access to both physical venues and digital experiences.

In a time when online interaction is more important than ever, it’s essential to ensure that every element of your digital campaign is accessible so you can reach your maximum audience.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Brands and consumers increasingly value a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Digital accessibility is a major component of DEI initiatives as it provides equal access and engagement opportunities for people with disabilities.

Additionally, disability affects all demographics, so ensuring digital experiences are accessible helps ensure engagement of a diverse group of consumers.

Legal obligation

Accessibility is also a legal obligation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to digital experiences, based on consensus case law and the perspective of the Department of Justice.

From 2017 to 2021, over 10,000 ADA lawsuits have been filed. In 2020 alone, approximately 265,000 ADA request letters were sent regarding digital accessibility issues.

Inclusive Content Design: A Guide

So where do you start when creating an inclusive campaign?

First consider the wide range of disabilities. Some people may be blind or partially sighted; others may be deaf or have partial hearing loss. Cognitive disabilities and mobility impairments can affect how quickly someone is able to consume content, or affect the ability to navigate content and use a mouse.

Understanding the many types of disabilities and what creates a welcoming experience for all users will inform your creative design and development processes.

Campaign planning

Before you start, ask yourself: Is there an opportunity to include people with disabilities in our campaign? Authentic inclusive portrayal in advertising places a diverse group of people in a positive light, undermining the stigma often associated with disability.

Take, for example, the Facebook portal ad “Share Something Real” which captures communication between two deaf sisters. The ad highlights the power of real conversations, including those in visual rather than spoken language.

When customers can naturally see themselves in your campaign, they are more connected to it, which is likely to make your message “stick”.

Video

Multifaceted campaigns often include video elements. When producing video content, ensure that it is accessible to people who are blind or partially sighted, people who are deaf or have partial hearing loss, and those with cognitive disabilities.

Consider…

  • Enable closed captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Including audio descriptions (describing on-screen visuals) for those who are blind or visually impaired
  • Avoid bright flashes when possible, or adhere to the “three flashes” rule (no content that flashes more than three times in one second) to avoid inducing a seizure
  • Including sign language interpretation for pre-recorded content
  • Selecting a video player that can be controlled by audio command or without a mouse

Websites and Landing Pages

The accessibility of your website or landing page impacts your conversions. When users encounter obstacles, they can bounce off your page, rendering your marketing efforts ineffective.

Consider doing the following when designing websites and landing pages:

  • Establish a clear header structure so that someone using assistive technology, like a screen reader, can navigate your page logically.
  • Make sure all non-decorative images have alt text so that a screen reader user who can’t see the featured images knows their meaning (especially important on e-commerce sites).
  • Be aware of your color contrast (the difference between a foreground color and its background). If there is not enough contrast, a visually impaired or color blind person may miss the content completely.
  • Label all your controls (everything a user interacts with): buttons, text boxes, checkboxes, etc. This will ensure that users understand the purpose of the controls and can navigate them successfully when using a screen reader.
  • If a control is an image (for example, a shopping cart icon), provide alt text so that the control is discoverable and usable.
  • Make sure controls are properly sized and positioned to be usable by keyboard, mouse, touch, and assistive technologies. Controls that are small or those that move can be difficult to interact with using alternate input technology.
  • Avoid auto-playing content that is difficult to control without a mouse and disrupts using a screen reader. If such content is unavoidable, provide the ability to stop or pause the video or audio.
  • Use jargon-free words in your messages that are easy to understand at all reading levels. It is best to keep sentences and paragraphs concise.

E-mail

An effective campaign often includes multiple email touchpoints. Are your emails accessible?

Similar to your website, consider doing the following when creating inclusive emails:

  • Make your subject line clear, and consider using a pre-header that screen readers can easily recite (much like Siri announces a text message you receive on your phone).
  • Avoid sending e-mails that only contain images without supporting text, even if they seem more aesthetic. In such a case, your image alt text should describe everything about the image, making it long and complex.
  • Make sure the color contrast is correct, even considering the color of your font against its background.
  • For longer messages, establish an appropriate header structure.
  • Keep your message simple and avoid using abbreviations whenever possible.
  • Use readable fonts and pay attention to text formatting if you have multiple paragraphs.
  • Make sure your hyperlinks describe where they lead a user. For example, the use of “click here” or “learn more” gives no indication of the content to which a user will be redirected.

Accessible experiences are more usable experiences

A commitment to an accessible experience at every touchpoint in your campaign ensures that your customers can fully engage with it, maximizing your marketing impact. It also means that they won’t hit any obstacles and opt for a more accessible competitor.

Additionally, when you make different elements of your campaign accessible to customers with disabilities, you improve the customer experience. all user. For example, video captions not only benefit people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also viewers in a noisy airport, for example, or those who retain information better when reading.

Accessible digital experiences are more usable experiences. Accessible content is beautiful content. By taking a moment to review a few simple checks and balances when planning, you’ll ensure maximum reach and effectiveness for your content and contribute to a more inclusive Internet.

More web accessibility resources

Why you need to create accessible videos

Professional Live Captions or Automatic Live Captions: Which is Right for You?

Do marketers consider accessibility when creating email campaigns?