Let’s get tickets for a concert this weekend!
We all look forward to saying those words again. Social gatherings, events and activities will certainly be welcomed after COVID. Of course, the destination where we most often go to check out events, prices, and seating availability is the internet.
You may not have thought much about the process of heading to a website to search for a ticket or choose your desired seating section in the stadium. However, one in twelve men and one in two-hundred women certainly do take notice, as it is difficult for them to distinguish reds from greens from blues. They’re color blind.
Digital Accessibility Impacts Your Brand
Color blindness represents about 300 million people globally. Brands that do not account for these sight limitations in the design of their user interface and search experience exclude a substantial amount of their audience from using their website. In a world insisting on a standard of inclusion and equality, this is a big problem, as it renders a brand disconnected and irrelevant.
And color blindness is one of many conditions that need to be taken into account. It is estimated that about 15-20% of the population has a disability in any of these categories: physical, auditory, cognitive and neurological, speech, and visual. Simply forgetting your eyeglasses at home makes for a temporary sight challenge at work some days.
This is the point: design and functionality are central to the experience that a user has online, so any limitation in interaction with a website dampens the desire to browse or purchase. A brand that positions itself as culturally relevant but does not appropriate its web properties for accessibility is not only sending mixed messages but is segregating its audience as well.
The Increasing Cost of Irrelevance
The mandate for brands is clear: they must embrace digital accessibility.
And this is not only essential for fulfilling general normative obligations, but legal ones as well.
While digital accessibility is not a new term, it has certainly risen in use in recent years, and now in recent months, due to the increase in global legislation to enforce web standards across all web content. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) asserts that everyone should be able to equally access web content regardless of personal limitation.
Equality in this case applies to more than just the act of visiting a website – it also includes navigating to desired content, completing a transaction, reading PDFs, attending an online conference or classroom, and more.
With that legislation in place, brands face penalties and potential lawsuits if they do not comply. This has forced many organizations to place a budget and priority on retrofitting their site for compliance. This process generally looks like running assessment reports and remediating changes to design, content and functionality – and it can be expensive.
While there is neither a shortcut nor endpoint to achieving compliance – since content changes online continuously – it can be made more efficient. All brands need to shift their approach from one that works backwards in remediation, to one that is prescient in preparation.
Prioritizing Digital Accessibility
That being said, digital accessibility should be part of the strategic roadmap, not an afterthought. Though new processes are being designed and tested with digital inclusivity in mind, they are far from being implemented fast enough for those struggling day-to-day. So not only are these important discussions to have, but it is essential that they occur very early on when building a new website.
We can look to tech giants like Microsoft and Google for guidance, as they’ve prioritized digital accessibility, but we must remain cognizant of the fact that their approach is dependent on having deep pockets.
For the rest of us, there are a variety of alternative methods that can help improve digital accessibility.
One such method is improving the search experience to prevent users from having to navigate using menus and other links. While digging through page after page to get to try to find the desired document or product is cumbersome for any user, it is even more frustrating for an individual that needs to use a screen reader to do so. Providing an AI-powered search experience is incredibly helpful in this regard, as it allows users to find what they are looking for with a single search – no digging necessary.
There are also several resources to help us adapt the digital accessibility approach utilized by digital giants and pursue it in a feasible manner – such as siteimprove.com, an industry leader in digital accessibility.