Accessibility is a hot topic today — as it should be.
At least 1 in 4 adults are living with some type of disability, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And thanks to growth in awareness and legal guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many businesses are finally making an effort to consider people with disabilities when creating their products and services.
But while many organizations are familiar with the accommodations required at their brick-and-mortar locations, few recognize that accessibility guidelines extend to website content and digital marketing efforts, too.
Not only does creating accessible content help you reach larger swaths of your audience, but it’s also the law — and failing to take proper measures can lead to discrimination lawsuits that could crush your brand's reputation.
As you prepare for 2020 and begin planning new initiatives for the year ahead, it’s the perfect time to schedule a content accessibility audit.
To help, here is some helpful background info, plus a few tips and best practices based on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Guidelines.
What is Content Accessibility?
People living with mobility issues, visual impairments, hearing impairments and learning disorders, like dyslexia, can face challenges when navigating the web. In the same way that a brick-and-mortar business might remove physical barriers to ease the way for folks with mobility constraints, companies must also ensure they’ve eliminated obstacles to accessing their digital content, too.
Essentially, content accessibility boils down to user experience: creating a hierarchical, easy-to-navigate website with content that’s easy to see, easy to read, mobile responsive and can be consumed in a variety of ways. (For example, making an article available as an audio file, or adding subtitles to videos.)
Apple’s website, for example, uses clean black font on a white background, is responsive to all screen sizes, and provides optional subtitles on all videos.
In addition to helping you get your message in front of an even larger audience, prioritizing these updates helps make your website and its content easier for everyone to use, and can help boost SEO, too. After all, the more easily humans can consume your content, the easier it will be for search engines to crawl.
“Case studies show that accessible websites have better search results, reduced maintenance costs, and increased audience reach, among other benefits,” says W3C.
Who Should Be Responsible for Creating Accessible Content
One of the reasons accessibility falls to the wayside when businesses are building their websites, apps and digital campaigns is because no one is quite sure whose job it is. Should HR take on this role? Or legal and compliance departments?
The truth is, content accessibility should be a joint-effort between marketers, developers, designers, product teams, QA and senior leadership. In other words, if you have any control over the content published on your website or in your app, or the experience surrounding that content, it’s up to you to ensure you’re meeting guidelines.
(Although, in many cases, businesses may have a compliance department or third-party agency review their site as well.)
Here are a few tools you can use to improve your inclusivity efforts:
5 Things to Check When Evaluating Content Accessibility
While this is in no way an exhaustive list, here are five areas to check when performing an accessibility audit:
By focusing on making these updates, you can help provide a more inclusive experience for people living with disabilities. And, as an added bonus, these enhancements will also further optimize your content for search, and a little easier for all visitors to consume.