Founder and CEO of Equally AI, a world-class, secured, convenient, and modern web accessibility experience for beneficiaries and businesses.
A brand’s online footprint is central to its customer acquisition and retention efforts. As much as 80% of potential customers will research a company online before making a purchase, so a highly accessible, intuitive and comprehensive website can mean the difference between converting leads and losing customers.
However, for the estimated 1.3 billion people with disabilities, including 36 million blind people, many digital platforms lack effective accessibility solutions that create an equitable online experience.
That’s why digital marketing agencies are working hard to improve their clients’ online footprint, responding to the latest trends and optimizing overall performance. Increasingly, this means advising clients on accessibility compliance, helping businesses avoid legal repercussions while connecting with the broadest audience possible.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide clear requirements in this regard, and digital marketing agencies have a responsibility to notify clients of the importance of complying with these standards and the rationale for implementing accessibility solutions with excellence.
While overhauling a vast web experience to achieve regulatory compliance can feel like a heavy lift, these three priorities empower digital marketing agencies to support their clients, building better online products in the process.
1. Evaluate existing website navigation.
For some people, the internet is an intuitive visual medium that they routinely navigate like it’s second nature. However, for blind people and others with prohibitive disabilities, websites can be difficult or impossible to navigate. Many websites make rudimentary efforts to improve accessibility, but their efforts fail in the face of complicated site navigation, which is one reason blind people file accessibility lawsuits.
Since digital agencies are charged with facilitating a company’s online content, when lawsuits arise, agencies are in the uncomfortable position of managing the client fallout from decisions made or supported in-house. Fortunately, digital agencies can help clients improve site navigation in several ways.
For starters, these priorities can be tested. For example, try to navigate your website with only a keyboard. If it isn’t keyboard-navigable, it needs immediate accessibility enhancements. Website navigation is a fundamental element of web accessibility, and specific improvements make it possible for more people to experience your clients’ web content.
2. Optimize the image experience.
Digital marketing agencies can help their clients improve web accessibility by optimizing the image experience for people with disabilities, especially blind people.
To start, evaluate image descriptions for comprehensive details that support accessibility solutions. For example, for images like this iconic one, helpful alternative text could say, “iconic image of 11 construction workers casually eating, chatting and smoking, fearlessly sat atop a steel beam 840 feet above Manhattan in 1932,” while unhelpful alternative text might read “lunch on a steel beam.”
Assign a team to caption images so that assistive technologies can convey image descriptions as visitors navigate the client’s website. Specifically, add an “alt tag” to an “img tag,” which improves the website’s performance for people with disabilities. Not only does this help brands comply with regulatory standards, but also it enhances site engagement by making it possible for more people to experience the content.
Some online platforms are too large to implement this solution effectively. To avoid providing a poorly executed accessibility solution, several websites, including Amazon and the BBC, removed alternative text from images using a tab index -1 solution, ensuring that blind people and others with visually-restrictive disabilities don’t have a less-than-optimal experience when visiting a website.
3. Create accessible forms.
Forms are commonly used to provide user interaction on websites and in web applications, including login, registering, commenting and purchasing. In many cases, forms are fundamental to the web browsing experience.
People using screen readers can identify and understand form controls more easily because they are associated with labels, fieldsets and other structural elements. When the forms are correctly labeled, a blind person can effectively use a screen reader or other assistive technologies to complete the form process.
To support these efforts, avoid using audit software to offload this responsibility. Highly effective web accessibility analysis should rely on people with disabilities who can evaluate a website, identify compelling features and pain points and help digital marketing teams progressively improve their accessibility solutions.
A Closing Thought
Web accessibility is a legal mandate, and digital marketing agencies have a responsibility to help their clients respond appropriately. Of course, the benefits of a highly effective accessibility solution achieve more than helping clients avoid a lawsuit.
Website accessibility is correlated with higher rates of customer engagement and retention, making it a bottom-line priority for every business. Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do. When businesses make their website accessible to everyone, they unmistakably declare “I care,” which is the most powerful message of all.