Make Accessibility Mean More

Hamish Sherlock Hamish Sherlock
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It's never too late to start making a difference.

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. What exactly does that mean? To the average person, not too much. To the average business, quite a bit. Over the past three years, an unprecedented number of federal website accessibility lawsuits have been filed against non-compliant organizations. While this has elevated the issue into new light, it has also positioned accessibility testing as a reactive measure rather than a proactive one.

While any progress regarding digital accessibility is a win in the grand scheme of things, organizations need to understand the value it holds beyond legal stability. Global Accessibility Awareness Day is as good a time as any to begin that education.

The True Value of Accessibility

For most, the act of becoming accessibility compliant is a tedious chore done simply out of necessity. In reality, organizations are opening up a whole new world of opportunity. The simple fact is that one-quarter of the U.S. population report having some form of a disability – representing millions of potential customers with billions in potential spending power. That alone is reason enough to work toward accessibility compliance.

There is far more to accessibility though than meets the average eye. If more were privy to the entire story, we would find ourselves in a far more inclusive digital world. So read on and catch a glimpse of what digital accessibility really means to you and those around you.

Accessibility Impacts Everyone

In general, people view accessibility as something that solely benefits the disabled community. In reality, accessible apps and websites help improve the user experience for everyone, whether intentional or not. For example, the use of subtitles in video content is critical to comprehension for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. What you may not have known is that subtitles also add value for users who cannot view a video with sound for any number of reasons (e.g. in an office or noisy setting).

Another example is the creation of accurate and detailed alt text. This is essential for the blind or those with vision deficiencies to understand the visuals displayed on a page. It’s also a valuable tool for users who are new to a site or feature and can use tooltips (messages activated by hovering over a web element) to educate them. Rather than think of accessibility measures like this purely resources for the disabled community, think of them as benefits to everyone.

Inclusion Fosters Goodwill

Creating accessible experiences is not only important from a legal standpoint, but from a reputational one as well. Legal action can severely impact both the bottom line and brand perception, especially when you consider how many people live with disabilities.

While you may not get any gold medals for reaching accessibility standards, you can certainly develop a reputation as a progressive leader and advocate. Consider Microsoft’s accessibility focus throughout its product line and its impact on the company’s overall brand image. By going the extra mile for your customers, your customers will go the extra mile for you. In Microsoft’s own words, “We all win.”

Improve Your SEO

Search engine optimization is essential to every company’s brand awareness and represents a key competitive advantage for those who do it well. There are many factors that go into SEO, but one that people often forget about is the importance of alt text. Though not even visible to most users, alt text plays just as important a role to your search ranking as does keyword attribution. The problem is many fail to realize this.

Search engines are actually very similar to blind users in that they are unable to see the content of your images. Instead of their eyes, they use screen readers to get the full picture. This makes alt text essential to the organization and its message and story. Alt text, along with headers and proper punctuation, allows a screen reader to read out the entirety of a page’s content in the order and cadence it is meant to be read and with proper context.

While many ignore alt text or fail to put real thought into labeling their images, those that do are not only creating a better experience for visually impaired users, but are improving the site infrastructure as a whole. Do your company and all of your users a favor by putting some extra effort into your alt text. This seemingly small measure can make a noticeable impact.

Proper Testing Goes a Long Way

It’s one thing to gain a deep understanding of digital accessibility and its benefits, but another to have the expertise and experience to help you realize those benefits. In fact, only 39% of QA professionals know that their organization employs an accessibility expert, according to a survey of the uTest community. Don’t leave your accessibility to chance.

With Applause, you gain access to a combination of expert-led accessibility assessments, inclusive design experience studies, and a community-driven testing approach to help identify your weaknesses and create a roadmap to remediate and resolve any issues. You have the ability to make a difference for every one of your consumers. Don’t let accessibility become just another checkbox. Make accessibility mean more.

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