Digital Accessibility Part 1: What Marketers Need to Know

You’re already expected to be aware of continually changing digital marketing approaches, new technologies and platforms, and customer support expectations as a digital marketer. Now you are being asked to load yet another best practices onto your resume?

Wait! Before you close out this post, start watching a video of a rabbit and a baby chick to assuage your shaken nerves, bearing in mind that most available marketing strategies already line up with what you’re already doing to attract clients and customers. The other conditional decisions are hardly worth mentioning and will help even those with disabilities. It’s simply a matter of time before you see which kind of attitude has taken over your digital accessibility conversation.

1This first of a series of articles will introduce you to some fundamentals you can begin implementing now to make your digital media content more accessible. Let’s get started!

What is Accessible Marketing?

Marketers’ jobs are primarily aimed at growing awareness and interest in an organization’s products or services and convincing people to buy them; however, achieving these goals is not particularly simple! It may be difficult for marketers to effectively acquire their message across across all digital media platforms, but a basic component of their marketing is communication. Regardless where or how they communicate with prospective customers, marketers have to do it somehow. Before you send out your message, you also want to ensure that all of your audience can comprehend it. Keep in mind the word understand in the previous sentence? That’s because there are multiple ways your message can be delivered, and some of them are accessible but not high quality, hindering a person with a disability from fully understanding them.

For example, a video with captions is suitable for those with perfect hearing. Thus, those with limited or no hearing can also watch it and potentially get a vague idea of what the video is about, but their comprehension may be limited. It s unlikely that a deaf person would watch a video without captions in the same way as someone who could hear what is going on. For example, a text with additional info is good for those with perfect hearing. Thus, those with limited or no hearing can also watch it and potentially get a vague idea of what the video is about, but their comprehension may be limited. It’s unlikely that a deaf person would watch a video with additional information in the same way as someone with perfect hearing.

What Digital Content Should Marketers be Concerned About?

It might be better to ask what digital assets marketers should not prioritize. The answer is that nothing is off limits. Whatever type of content you are putting out, be it a video, a blog, an infographic, a tweet, or any of the many other assets, creatives can dream up, it will be subject to accessibility checks.

If it belongs to public use or intended for public view, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has determined that your web content falls under the ADA – Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Attorneys representing digital accessibility lawsuits have reported no signs of slowing, so think long and hard if you go ahead and host a public website.

Accepted Guidelines for Digital Accessibility

There are a number of accepted guidelines for digital accessibility, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and the Section 508 Standards. Both of these sets of guidelines provide detailed instructions on how to make web content and applications accessible to people with disabilities.

In general, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines focus on four main principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. All content must be presented in a way that is easy for users to perceive, navigate, and understand. Additionally, the content must be able to be used by assistive technologies such as screen readers.

The Section 508 Standards are similar to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, but also include specific requirements for software applications, hardware devices, and information technology services. These standards are required by law for all federally funded projects.

International Web Standards - W3 and WCAG

First, let’s discuss the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization that governs web standards. Web standards dictate how to deliver a consistent web content experience for website users on a variety of platforms and devices. The W3C established the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) among their goals for ensuring that people with disabilities would have the ability to participate in almost any sort of online activity, even if the web itself offers specific restrictions.

The W3C developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) in 1999 as a tool to assist digital content creators. The most recent version of this tool is WCAG 2.1 (2018). Accessible digital assets have to meet the criteria embraced by the Digital Accessibility Guidelines, but this document contains much more nuanced regulations. For example, success criterion 2.4.3 (Focus Order) dictates that when users navigate to content in an order that reflects their understanding, they present information in an order that is consistent with the meaning of the content and can be operated via USB keyboard. Everything seems to be logically quite obvious, but this may be a superior example where multiple ordering choices may be discovered to enhance the user experience. In cases like this, it ‘s essential to take the time to think about sight along with accessibility too.

Your content should correspond to the WCAG 2.1 techniques, and you may perform optional user testing to ensure the user experience is acceptable for most people. This will help you work to build an accessible website.

Accessible Marketing Recommendations

We will be publishing a number of articles about how to create accessible content: read part 2 on websites, best practices, and user experience. As your skills remain aligned with these standards, you will be closer to providing a positive experience across the board. For a digital-first person with a disability, a podcast about electronic accessibility would be the perfect first step toward seeing the value in technology.

As the world increasingly moves online, it’s important for businesses to make sure their marketing is accessible to everyone. Here are some recommendations on how to make your marketing more accessible:

1. Use clear and concise language that everyone can understand.

2. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that not everyone will be familiar with.

3. Make sure your website and other online materials are compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies.

4. Provide alternative versions of text and images, such as audio or video, for people who have difficulty reading or seeing traditional content.

5. Pay attention to the overall design of your website and materials, and make sure they are easy to navigate and visually appealing for all users.

By following these recommendations, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are accessible to everyone, regardless of their ability or disability.

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