Ever since the turn of the century, in the early 2000s, we are told that we are living in the digital era. Today, over 20 years later, we are living more and more immersed and dependent on technology. The internet is almost a synonym for work, practicality, how to get around, education, relationships and much more. But have you ever stopped to think that it may not be accessible for everyone? That’s where digital accessibility comes in!
Including digital accessibility in a website is as important as an architect planning elevators in buildings for people in wheelchairs to have access to it.
It is a set of solutions that make it possible for people with disabilities to browse the web with autonomy and independence. It is the tool that breaks down these barriers that complicate their internet access. This is why it must be taken seriously in website creation processes, and also in your business’ entire communication or even so in personal social networks. Besides, it is worth remembering that digital accessibility doesn’t only benefit people with disabilities. It improves the daily lives of everyone!
In the United States, there are over 61 million adults living with a disability. Although there are current laws that aim to ensure accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, such as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), and the collective awareness has increased over the last years, advances are still very slow in America due to lack of specialized professionals in the area.
According to the 2020 Web Accessibility Annual Report, currently only 2% of American websites are totally accessible to people with disabilities. This means that an audience that represents over 18% of the country’s population, is being excluded from digital environments.
During the pandemic, our lives that were already very connected to the technological world, became even more digitized. Despite already existing super updated digital accessibility tools to keep up with this pace, its implementation is still far from ideal. It is everyone’s job to practice inclusion in our country, so count on Hand Talk’s blog to keep on learning related tips.
Digital accessibility is indispensable for people with disabilities to be able to perform their basic tasks online in an independent manner. Such as shopping online, keeping up with news from the US and all around the world, connecting through social media, studying, working, etc. But, in fact, many accessibility solutions are useful for all kinds of audiences, like the elderly, children and people with momentary physical limitations. Think about it, one day you may have your dominant arm immobilized, how to browse the web with only one hand? Keyboard shortcuts, for example, are an accessibility feature that improves the lives of many people.
And of course, legally speaking, digital accessibility is mandatory! Inclusion is a right for people with disabilities and there is even a law for it. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which we mentioned earlier, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. It also encourages private and public corporations to follow and guarantee accessibility guidelines, ensuring that this group of people will be able to enjoy integration into economic, political, social, cultural and educational aspects of American society.
Besides that, Google understands how important digital accessibility is for people with disabilities to be able to browse autonomously. Therefore, its algorithms validate ranking (the page’s position in the search engine). It also values and benefits accessible pages, because it understands that that content is useful for more people. So, if you want to appear at the top of Google rankings, accessibility may be a great asset.
The WCAG 2.2 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is a set of guidelines to ensure a global standard of accessibility online. It determines that there are 4 main kinds of accessibility:
All elements, including the page’s graphic and textual information, must be perceivable to the senses. Nothing can be invisible or hidden.
The page’s buttons, controls and other interactive elements must be operable with clicks and other adaptations, such as: scrolling, sliding, voice command and other assistive devices.
All available information, including buttons and its directions, must be presented in a logical and comprehensible manner for all users.
The page’s content must be compatible with all devices, including assistive technologies.
The only way to ensure digital accessibility is by following the WCAG 2.2 guidelines. This guide contains important specifications on how to build an accessible web. It is important to remember that the guidelines are constantly updated to cover more and more issues related to the promotion of autonomy for the highest number of users possible.
Another crucial thing is to rely on people with disabilities to be a part of the construction of an accessible website. After all, who is better than themselves for this validation? There are super qualified professionals with disabilities to integrate your technology team. It is also interesting to perform tests with people with different disabilities, ensuring that the resources cover different accessibility issues.
Apart from that, count on assistive technology and make sure that your communication is also accessible for all audiences.
Assistive technology is the term used to describe all tools that make life easier for people with disabilities. That is, solutions in accessibility for physical or digital environments.
Some examples of assistive technologies are:
To ensure that you and your brand are communicating with all audiences, including people with disabilities, it is fundamental to think about the accessibility resources that are being used. A good tip is to create multisensory contents. Which means, that can be consumed and understood even without using one of the senses.
Subtitles in videos are essential for an accessible communication and it is also a simple resource to include. This benefits not only deaf people, those with hearing impairments, or cognitive disabilities. It also helps others that wish to watch the video without sound for some reason.
Image descriptions, also known as alternative text, or ALT, are a resource that helps blind people or those with low vision to comprehend the message being transmitted in an image. What is ideal is to include these texts in all images, be it in your website, or in publications in other communication channels.
Organize the content in pages in a logical and comprehensive manner. Think about the hierarchy of titles and subtitles (also known as heading tags).
The title with the H1 tag must inform the reader regarding what the page’s content is about. Now the H2, H3, H4 and so on, are subtitles. Respecting this order makes for a more fluid reading and comprehensive experience.
Technology has been a big ally to digital inclusion. Accessibility plugins are developed to ease browsing for people with disabilities in your website, making it more pleasant for them. These tools must be installed on your website in a simple way. This is the case for the Hand Talk Plugin, a digital accessibility solution that translates all text content from webpages in English into American Sign Language. This allows for deaf people or those with hearing impairments, that communicate in ASL, to be able to access your brand with more autonomy. This solution will soon be available in the United States, so stay tuned!
As we have said throughout the text, investing in digital accessibility is to contribute to the digital inclusion of people with disabilities. But they aren’t the only ones that benefit from it. The positive impacts are extended to the organizations that are concerned about it.
Digital accessibility has everything to do with social responsibility and well being. It makes it possible for people with disabilities to be included in society. It is connected to ESG standards (Environmental, Social and Governance) in the social aspect, reinforcing the importance of inclusion in human relationships with all groups, regardless whether they are internal or external. And also to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), but more specifically to number 10, regarding reduction of inequalities.
A brand that engages with social causes and follows sustainable practices, only tends to develop an increasingly positive image before its target audience. A survey by Futerra showed that 88% of customers are more loyal to companies that support social or environmental issues.
Digital accessibility promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities online. Also, brands that invest in it only tend to gain and grow!
With the advancement of technology, there already exist countless resources available to fulfill this purpose and break down accessibility barriers on the internet. If you still don’t know where to start, we invite you to learn more about Hand Talk and start creating today a fairer web to all people!