A Digital Marketing Team’s Must-Do List for Web Accessibility
By Ran Ronen, Founder and CEO, Equally.ai
For most people, the internet is vital infrastructure, serving as the centerpiece of how they work, play, collaborate, and connect. These trends only accelerated during the pandemic. Some cities saw web traffic increase by as much as 100 percent, reflecting the digital-first environment that defines our present and our future.
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However, there are 1.3 billion people with disabilities, including 36 million blind people, without equal or even capable access to digital platforms.
In response, accessibility-related lawsuits have increased significantly in the past few years. As The National Law Review reports, “U.S. companies have been inundated with lawsuits in the past several years alleging that their websites do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and various state laws, including the California Unruh Act. Plaintiffs claim that the websites do not meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) created by the nonprofit World Wide Web Consortium.”
As a digital marketing team operating internally or at an agency, you have the responsibility to notify your clients or company leaders that their inaccessible websites are violating the law, putting them at risk of litigation. Fortunately, there are critical steps that brands and the marketers who manage their websites can take to improve accessibility by the end of 2021.
#1 Make Your Website is Easily Navigable
In many cases, the internet is a visual medium, making it uniquely challenging for blind people to have a compelling or satisfactory online experience. Blind people are the leading proponents of accessibility lawsuits, as many existing accessibility solutions diminish, rather than enhance, their online experience.
For example, focus on eliminating keyboard traps. Pop-ups, drop-down menus, forms, and other common web elements make accessibility impossible. People with various disabilities cannot use your client’s website if it isn’t keyboard accessible, making this a must-have feature for every website.
What’s more, digital marketing teams can optimize keyboard navigation, ensuring that content is tab-indexable and easy-to-follow. Web accessibility starts with an easily navigable design that lets more people engage with online content in the best way possible.
#2 Reorganize the Image Experience
For people with full blindness, digital images often present an impediment to a compelling or productive online experience. Digital marketing teams can alleviate these hurdles in several ways.
First, caption images so that assistive technologies can read image descriptions as users navigate a website. Add an “alt tag” to the “img tag” to immediately improve your client’s site performance for people with disabilities, improving engagement and addressing compliance concerns. When developing alternative text, providing more and better details allows blind people to enjoy a descriptive visual experience when they navigate your client’s website.
Of course, some web ecosystems are too expansive to implement this solution effectively. That’s why web platforms, including Amazon and BBC, removed alternative text from the experience with tab index -1, allowing blind people to navigate their websites without poorly developed, implemented, or moderated alternative text.
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#3 Evaluate, Assess & Improve
Web accessibility is a moving target. New digital features, industry trends, or consumer expectations ensure that brands will need to continue to evaluate their accessibility efforts, assessing their effectiveness and improving accordingly.
Unfortunately, many digital marketers are relying on audit software to streamline this responsibility. Successful web accessibility analysis will empower people with disabilities to evaluate a website, critique the experiences, and identify potential pain points for users.
For instance, digital marketers might rely on blind users to evaluate a client’s website, critiquing the experience and providing a user-specific perspective on the quality of accessibility improvements.
In 2021, internet use is surging as it becomes the primary way people engage with the world in a digital-first environment. Brands have an ethical responsibility to promote web accessibility, something that is also enshrined in legal standards.
Rather than enduring an embarrassing and potentially devastating accessibility lawsuit, digital marketers and their creative teams should make their online experience as compelling as possible.
Simply put, focusing on the consumer experience for all people is a priority that digital marketers can achieve by the end of 2021. It’s a worthy endeavor with profound implications for everyone.
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