Making your website fully accessible to people with disabilities is the right thing to do—but it's also the smart thing to do. For one thing, if someone with a disability goes to your site and can't identify images or click on important links, odds are they'll abandon your business and go to one of your competitors. If that competitor has taken the time to make his site accessible, he'll pick up their business—and you won't.
And What Are You Doing to Your Brand?
And there's potentially another problem for your business if your website is inaccessible—people talk. When someone with a visual or hearing impairment can't use your site, they'll probably tell other people. They might tell them, for example, that your business isn't socially conscious, that you don't care about people for whom life is already a challenge, and that could do even more damage to your company, creating the sense that you don't care about all your prospective customers, driving traffic away from your website and hurting your brand.
Almost 60 Million Disabled Americans
If you think, "Well, I guess I could make my site accessible, but what's the point? After all, there aren't really that many disabled people in this country, and what it costs me to make my site accessible just isn't worth the investment," well, think again. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 1 of every 5 people in the United States has some form of disability. Consider, for example, these metrics:
• There are 56.7 million disabled persons in the United States—that constitutes approximately 19% of the population
• More than 8 million Americans have some form of visual disability, including 2 million who are blind
• Almost 8 million Americans have a hearing disability, including 1.1 million for whom that disability is "severe"
What's A Business to Do?
Said differently, if you don't take steps to make your website accessible, you could be missing out on about 1 of every 5 potential customers—and that could be a costly mistake. The good news, however, is that making your site accessible is probably easier than you think. Here are 8 smart moves you can make today to do the right thing, and the smart thing for your business:
1. Use alt tags: ever notice when you hover over a picture on the internet those words which pop up? Those words, called "alt tags," are special code you add to your site to ensure that people with visual disabilities can identify what the image is. They simply turn on their screen reader, which—if the alt tag is in place—can read to them whatever is in the tag. That means they'll know what every image is, and that you cared enough to let them know. One caution—take the time to make every alt tag as clear and descriptive as possible—for example, if you show a picture of a pile of money, use "pile of money" in your alt tag.
2. Use subtitles in your videos: in the same way as alt tags help people with disabilities identify what's in images, subtitles help them know what's in your videos. If you're producing your own videos, you'll find helpful tools on site's like YouTube that make adding subtitles easy. It's also a good idea to create a transcript for your videos so people who can't see or hear them will still know what they're all about.
3. Don't forget those periods: if you're creating content using HTML and you don't use periods in abbreviations, screen readers can't read them. For example, if you want to write about the Environmental Protection Agency, you can't render it as "EPA," because the screen reader won't know what that is. Simply changing it to "C.I.A." will tell the screen reader what you're talking about.
4. Tell users what your links link to: if you have links in your text that simply say, "click here," you're leaving a lot of people with disabilities in the dark. Instead, tell users what it is they're clicking on, and where that link will tell them. For example, if you have a link to content about affordable CRM software, use text like, "click here for information about affordable CRM software." You should also underline links and render them in a color which contrasts with the color of surrounding text—this helps colorblind users use them.
5. Make it easy to click: some users will have mobility problems, and that can make it hard to click on links which are very small. For them, clicking on your link can feel like the equivalent of hitting a ringer every time playing horseshoes. Increase the size of clickable territory to make it as easy as possible for these users.
6. Keep your writing simple: convoluted sentences, complex grammatical and syntactical constructions and obscure vocabulary can make reading difficult for users with learning disabilities, so strive to keep your writing simple and easily readable. For example, a sentence like, "Reconciling the results of the election with earlier polling is something which political pundits would not consider inconsequential" is pretty rough going. The same idea could be conveyed with, "Most political observers agree the polls got this one wrong."
To help you keep your writing simple, you can use one of several recognized readability indexes, like Gunning Fog and Flesch-Kincaid.
7. Put your site through its paces: after you've done due diligence to make your site accessible, take the time to test how well people with disabilities can use it. You can, for example, ask customers or friends who have disabilities to use your site—they can provide valuable feedback on what works and what doesn't. You can use that feedback to make your site more accessible.
8. Partner with experts: your best bet is to partner with a full-service digital marketing agency which specialize in website accessibility. Zenyth Group can give your business the guidance and advice you need to make your website fully accessible while simultaneously improving your online reputation and boosting your brand.
Making your website accessible to all users—including those with disabilities—is among the best ways to grow your business and polish your brand. You'll expand your customer base, provide better service to website visitors, and increase trust and credibility.
To learn more about the ways our brand strategy, user experience, rapid prototyping, web development, mobile app and e-commerce services can help you achieve your key marketing objectives and drive sales, contact us today.