Digital accessibility is about providing people with disabilities with equivalent access to your content — and in the process, delivering a better experience for everyone.
By building an accessible web experience, you’ll be able to reach the 1 billion people worldwide who live with some form of disability. Just as importantly, you’ll send a clear message to your users and prospects: Your brand values its audience, and you’re ready to earn their trust.
Your visitors associate your web experience with your brand
Imagine that you’re visiting an e-commerce website to purchase some shoes. The product details are written in light text over a light background, and you have trouble finding the information you need.
You add the shoes to your cart, but you’re unable to make your purchase: The website displays an error message about one of the form fields. Unfortunately, the site presents a generic error message, so you can’t determine which field needs your attention. After re-entering your information, you get to the next screen, which has two buttons — one red and one green — with no text explaining their functionality.
Would you trust that website to handle your order?
For most consumers, the answer is a clear “no,” and the site will probably encounter long-term issues with customer retention. After all, if a company doesn’t bother making their website usable, you can’t trust their customer service to correct mistakes.
Each of the issues listed above is an accessibility failure under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the consensus international standards for accessibility. Websites that follow the WCAG framework are reasonably accessible for most users with disabilities, but they’re also more useful in a practical sense — accessible design is good web design, period.
When your content is predictable, operable, understandable, and robust enough to work with a wide variety of devices and technologies, you remove the barriers that prevent people from engaging with your website. Your site aligns with user expectations, which gives people the confidence they need to become customers.
A growing number of internet users prioritize accessibility
Accessibility can also help you build trust by showcasing your values. Your customers are looking for a reason to advocate for your brand; if you prioritize inclusivity, you’ll provide that reason.
Here, we should note that accessibility and inclusivity share principles, but they’re distinct concepts. The purpose of accessibility is to accommodate people with disabilities. Inclusivity is about ensuring that people of all backgrounds, abilities, and experiences have equivalent access to your business. In other words: Your brand can have an accessible website without prioritizing inclusivity, but you can’t be “inclusive" without an accessible website.
According to a study from global marketing agency FleishmanHillard, 65% of consumers say that brands must commit to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the workplaces to be more credible than their competitors. If your website isn’t accessible, visitors will assume — fairly or unfairly — that your business doesn’t value the experiences of people with different abilities.
To showcase your commitment to DE&I, you’ll need to start with an accessible web experience including a detailed accessibility statement that outlines your values. You’ll also need to focus on both accessibility and inclusivity from the first stages of product development. This ensures that you’re offering a truly inclusive experience and can help to reduce the costs of long-term website maintenance.
Building Trust Through Accessibility
Most brands understand the importance of accessibility at a basic level: Accessible digital products are essential for compliance with non-discrimination laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and compliance concerns are responsible for a large portion of accessibility initiatives.
But accessibility and inclusivity are also closely aligned with key business goals, and many leaders ignore that alignment. Without an accessible website, brand advocacy suffers. User retention drops, especially if competitors offer a better online experience. Poor accessibility can even impact search engine optimization (SEO) and social marketing efforts.
Ultimately, accessibility is about much more than compliance. At the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, our goal is to make the internet a more welcoming place for everyone — especially those with disabilities — and helping brands earn the trust of their audiences. Contact us to learn more or download our Ultimate Guide to Web Accessibility.