08 March 2018
The Importance of Accessibility in the Customer Experience
Making digital content accessible is not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
If your website or mobile applications are not ADA compliant, you are possibly missing out on millions of potential customers who cannot access your site due to their disabilities. At PTP, we are passionate about accessibility, and we don’t see accessibility as an add-on to development, but as a key part of the overall design and user experience journey.
This mindset results in more innovative solutions with improved functionality and an enhanced user experience that keeps customers happy and wanting to return. Making your physical facilities more accessible to individuals with disabilities creates a welcoming and inclusive environment for your employees and customers and it’s just as important to keep your digital presence and modes of communication accessible as well.
Here’s why taking additional steps to make your digital presence accessible is a smart move for your organization when it comes to the customer experience.
Accessible Websites Provide a Great User Experience for All Users, Not Just People with Disabilities
When you’re walking down a city street and there’s curb cuts in the sidewalks, they’re primarily meant for wheelchair users and visually-impaired pedestrians who can be made aware of a street crossing. But if you’re pushing a stroller with children in it or pushing a heavy wheeled suitcase, aren’t you glad that those curb cuts are there to make your life easier?
The same is also true of making your website accessible. For instance, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) color contrast requirements dictate that large text (18 point or 14 point bold) requires a 3:1 contrast ratio while small text (less than 18 point or 14 point bold) requires a 4.5:1 contrast ratio, and color is not used as the only visual means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.
While these guidelines are intended to make your site accessible to colorblind users and users with visual impairments, they also make it easier to read and navigate for people who are tired at the end of the day and can’t focus on smaller text very well. Older people who lose visual acuity over time also benefit from being able to view your site. Enabling keyboard-based navigation also enables users with assistive technology to better interact with your website. But this is also great for able-bodied people browsing your website while laying down with a laptop and not wanting to move their arms to use a trackpad.
By making your site accessible to people with disabilities, able-bodied people also benefit and have a better user experience and thus customer experience. Don’t you want someone to be able to easily navigate your website to find products and visit a store?
That should include all kinds of people and simplifying it as much as possible.
Omni-channel Modes of Communication Increase Accessibility
If voice communications are the only or primary method of contacting customer support, this leaves out a significant amount of customers with disabilities. Customers who are permanently or temporarily unable to speak might not have the types of assistive technologies required to make phone calls, and customers with hearing impairments need alternate means besides TTY to contact the support team. Customers with motor impairments may also be unable to dial numbers and give other cues that help the IVR properly route the call.
Internal support chat and the ability to contact customer support through social media empowers users with disabilities to communicate since these modes of communication are more feasible for alternative input devices and make it easier for customers with hearing and/or vocal impairments. Just like how physical accommodations like curb cuts make life easier for people without disabilities, the same is true of omni-channel communications.
Customers who can hear and speak might be in a quiet place like a waiting room or have poor reception on the subway, but want to resolve their issue now. The ability to send a direct message through Twitter instead of calling for an immediate response makes their lives easier and provides a better and more consistent experience than the frustration of dialing in or potentially waiting several days for an email response.
The more communication channels that are available to work with, the more accessible your business becomes and the happier customers will be with their options and ability to work with temporary problems like poor reception or permanent disabilities like hearing impairment.
A More Accessible Online Presence Means Both Happier Customers and More Customers
The World Health Organization estimates that about 15% of the global population has a disability. Why leave out over one billion people from being able to use your website?
There’s many common myths about website accessibility, two of the most persistent being that creating an accessible web presence means that you have to sacrifice aesthetics and also that people with disabilities don’t use the internet. People with disabilities definitely go online and participate in society. Making your site more inclusive to them not only shows that you’re being considerate of their needs, but also leaves a positive and lasting impression on visitors as a whole.
You certainly do not have to sacrifice having a gorgeous, media-rich website to accommodate users with disabilities and you even get certain bonuses: by putting alternative text tags on your images for instance, you’re not only making your site easier for visually-impaired users to navigate but it also becomes searchable text that can boost your SEO scores. You might also qualify for up to $5,000 in federal tax rebates for making your website more accessible which helps offset the cost of your accessibility investment.
It also can’t hurt to provide an accessibility statement on your website that proves your commitment to inclusion and an incredible user experience. That will not only keep customers coming back, but also getting them to recommend your site to other people. You’ll have more customers to serve and happier customers overall.
Accessibility in both the digital world and physical space is important for society to move forward if the world we inhabit will be a kinder and more inclusive one. But there are many palpable benefits to your bottom line if you develop an accessibility initiative, and make accessibility part of your customer experience strategy.
Mark Pendolino is the Director of Marketing at PTP, overseeing the creation of customer experience content focused on helping organizations discover best practices for evolving the customer journey. Prior to PTP, Mark managed teams for companies such as Microsoft, Smartsheet, Fujitsu, and Parsons Brinckerhoff. Mark holds a master’s in Communication in Digital Media from the University of Washington, and a bachelor’s in Technical Communications from Metropolitan State University of Denver. In his downtime, Mark likes to thrash a bit on the drumkit and pretend he’s a rock star.
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