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The Importance of Web Accessibility and How Marketers Can Help

March 21, 2018

The internet is arguably the most powerful resource known to mankind. We have access to more information than we could ever digest in a lifetime, and that information has changed millions of lives.

Of course, the internet isn’t perfect, but we can fix many of its flaws, like lack of accessibility. Not everyone can take full advantage of the internet, and that’s a problem. Many users need to be accommodated for one reason or another. Think of older folks with weak vision or who are blind. Sadly, not all websites are optimized for these kinds of visitors.

That’s why the World Wide Web Consortium, better known as W3C, created the Web Accessibility Initiative. Under this initiative are standards to make sure the internet can easily be used by as many people as possible. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t get its fair share of the spotlight. Most people are strongly advocating for a free and open internet, but what about handicapped or impaired visitors? The truth is that both forms of accessibility are critical to keeping the internet a freely available resource for everyone.

Most often, web accessibility helps disabled users have the fullest browsing experience possible. Here are some common use cases and how marketers can help bridge this gap:

Vision Impairment

Alternative text, or alt text for short, accompanies an image. This text describes the contents of an image and comes in handy for users with impaired vision, who can use screen reading technology to “read” the image. If an image doesn’t have alt text, it’s inaccessible to these types of users.

To change or improve alt text, simply choose to edit image options, then add alt text where indicated. It's best to go with a simple, straightforward description of the image. So, if you're featuring an image of a golden retriever jumping to catch a tennis ball, then your alt text might look something like: <img src="goldenretriever.jpg" alt="Golden retriever jumping to catch a tennis ball">.

Hearing Impairment

If a hearing-impaired user doesn’t have an alternative way of interacting with audio files, like an audio transcript, they will be missing out on a large part of your brand experience. 

Creating audio transcripts doesn't need to be a complicated, expensive or time-consuming task. One Chrome plugin, Transcribe, performs beautifully and turns the onerous task of transcription into a two-second job. Obviously, even the best transcription software lacks the human touch, so it would be best to review each transcription before publishing it on your site.

Physically Disabled Users

If a user is unable to use certain computer peripherals, like a mouse, they need to use assistive technology. This may include screen readers, magnifiers or speech-to-text software. Other users who lack the ability to use a keyboard or mouse make use of voice recognition software. 

As marketers, we're not simply tasked with shouting about our product or service. We're tasked with helping people understand how our products or services can improve their lives, contribute to their wellbeing and benefit the people they love and care for. With this understanding, we should work to build websites, content and information that's easy to find, use and interact with, even for those who lack the conventional ways of doing so.

About 56.7 million Americans have disabilities. That's roughly 17.5% of the entire U.S. population who can’t access all of the internet. (And that’s just in the U.S.)

How Poor Accessibility Creates A Digital Divide

Since much of the internet doesn’t prioritize accessibility, millions of disabled users suffer. The Pew Research Center found that disabled Americans are three times as likely as non-disabled Americans to say they never go online.

Source: Forbes

Related Information

Accessibility Disabilities WCAG