Over the past year, we have seen increasing awareness of the importance of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) across communities. This is welcome news for us all. We live in the most diverse and multicultural society the world has ever seen. But there remains more work to be done.
Inclusive marketing is the practice of creating campaigns that reflect and represent the wide diversity of modern society while decreasing cultural bias. Regardless of a person’s race, gender, age, disability, or any other self-identifying attribute, it is a brand’s responsibility to ensure customers feel seen, heard and respected.
(Read the first article in this series, All Inclusive: Marketing to the LGBTQIA+ Community.)
Defining Web Accessibility
According to Web Accessibility Guidelines, 99% of U.S.-based websites are inaccessible to users with disabilities. Web accessibility refers to websites, tools and technologies designed for people with disabilities. This includes digital content that is published every day that is ultimately inaccessible to over 18.5 million people. Since the web is an important resource for many aspects of life, it is essential that it be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities.
The World Economic Forum conducted research showing that 29% of the FTSE 100 companies fail to meet website accessibility standards. This results in companies potentially missing out on a $13 trillion market, which is the estimated disposable income of people with disabilities as well as their friends and family.
Everyone has a right to equal digital access, whether that’s a website, a tool, an app or the user experience. However, many companies still struggle to be fully inclusive of the one billion people worldwide who have a disability that affects their online digital experience, whether visual, cognitive, hearing or motor.
Overlooked: What We’re Missing
The immediate need for more inclusive design and development is evident in a 2021 analysis conducted by WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind).
WebAIM found that out of the top one million homepages it analyzed, 97.4% had at least one failure of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The average number of errors related to notable end user impact was 51.4% per homepage. (However this did represent a 15.6% decrease from 2020). And, just for reference, the most errors detected on a single homepage was 25,361.
According to the report, low contrast text was found on 86.4% of homepages—the most commonly detected accessibility issue. Users with disabilities, especially visual, need to be able to perceive content on the page, which means choosing the right colors and brightness level to make the content accessible. (For example, black text on a white background has the highest readability.)
Content also includes images and other visual elements, making alternative text (alt text) important. It needs to be extremely accurate and descriptive in order to provide meaning and context to those with visual disabilities.
Tips: Text Alternatives and Video Captions
Some other tips from Search Engine Journal include making sure your site’s font size can be enlarged and that keyboard navigation is incorporated, such as with drop-down menus and URLs. Additionally, the WCAG recommends providing text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
For the hearing impaired, captioning videos is an obvious best practice and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In fact, one experiment found that videos on Facebook with captions outperformed those without both click-through rates and cost-per-click. Another benefit to adding subtitles to your content is that it typically produces a transcript.
Here is a quick accessibility reference guide provided by WCAG broken down into four different areas:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
- Create content presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Give users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not use content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Make it easier to use inputs other than a keyboard.
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
There are tools available online that can determine your website’s accessibility. Unfortunately no tool alone can determine if a site meets website accessibility standards. Determining whether a site is truly accessible requires a knowledgeable human evaluation. The Website Accessibility Initiative has created a guide for people to evaluate web accessibility.
Accessible by Design
“To be inclusive of people who are deaf and hard of hearing, and any other disability for that matter, CMOs and marketers must embrace the principle of accessible by design,” says George Coleman, co-CEO of communications agency Current Global. “That means considering accessibility from the outset of creating a new product, user experience, or marketing campaign—not something that is factored in post-concept.”
Every company needs to create guidelines for both internal and external content including how to create accessible campaigns. The PRCA has created the first guidelines for Accessible Communications that provides steps to apply best practices and ensure the greatest degree of accessibility. This includes visual content, text and written copy, social media content, influencer content and physical and virtual events.
“As professional communicators, it is incumbent on us to make communications inclusive for people of all abilities so we can reach every member of society,” said Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA and Chief Executive, ICCO. “The technology and tools to help us do this are readily available, so the key priority is to update the way we work to adhere to best practices laid out in the guidelines.”
Delighting All Customers
Adding to these guidelines, the Design Delight from Disability 2020 report encourages companies “to add economic value by delighting customers and attracting the best talent.” Delighting customers requires companies to include not just accessible design, but design that “wows” from the start. Delight is the “wow” and used as a benchmark for customer satisfaction. This process will ultimately result in outsized returns as it will appeal to every customer.
The single best thing a company can do is to hire more people with disabilities. This ensures not only a diversified workplace, but it also informs how to be inclusive in all brand initiatives. Having a variety of voices on staff gives insight into everyone’s needs and wants as a consumer as well as a person navigating day-to-day life. When companies provide this human touch, consumers notice and employees feel valued.