How To Improve Your Digital Presence During an Economic Recession
There is no doubt that we are in an era where technological development is constantly permeating every aspect of our culture. Lately, the buzzwords in the tech world include things like DE&I, accessibility, ESG scores, compliance, AI, and machine learning, among many others. Technology is constantly changing, so how does a company keep up? How does a company decide what areas require necessary investment right now, and what can they hold off on?
In the current economic recession, companies must find creative ways to save money and cut costs. The best way to do this is to design with accessibility in mind. You would not allow a leaky pipe to drip until it causes a flood. You would replace the pipe and fix the leak. Essentially, that is what we are saying, when you design with accessibility in mind, you are addressing the problems and administering the fixes as you go, rather than having to go back and fix those issues once your digital assets have already been completed. Accessibility is quickly becoming a buzzword in the current market, as new worldwide regulations and guidelines are being passed, ensuring that everyone has equal access to any digital media being created. With ESG scores also becoming a more significant concern to companies, digital accessibility covers not only the social aspect but the governmental as well. Therefore, investing in digital accessibility now can bring you a greater return on your investment down the line.
Accessibility Regulations Around the World
People with disabilities make up over 26% of the population, so one in 4 people deal with physical or mental disabilities. This new ADA regulation I am speaking of has many different names and requirements based on each country’s specific guidelines. Still, the overall idea is the same: make your digital assets accessible for all based on current compliance standards. Below is a brief outline of these current regulations:
U.S. Federal ADA Regulation (Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act)*: Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information comparable to the access available to others. The U.S. Access Board is responsible for developing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility standards to incorporate into regulations that govern Federal procurement practices. On January 18, 2017, the Access Board issued a final rule that updated accessibility requirements covered by Section 508, and refreshed guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. The final rule went into effect on January 18, 2018.
Canada AODA Regulation: The standards outlined by the AODA regulation set out what a person or organization must do to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities to whom the standard applies. The five accessibility standards include- Information and communication (websites, apps, digital documents, PDF’s), customer service, transportation, employment, and design of public spaces.
European Accessibility Act*: A directive that aims to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services by removing barriers created by divergent rules in member states. This directive requires all businesses, including manufacturers and publishers in the European Union, to be fully compliant with current standards no later than June 28, 2025; or they will no longer be able to trade in the open market.
Mistakes Companies Typically Make
Lack of Investment
A lack of investment in accessibility can lead to greater issues down the road. What we often find is that companies believe they are already fully compliant, or perhaps they have already chosen a solution they feel works best for them. However, there is a lot of misinformation in the marketplace, and we see companies making grave mistakes when it comes to investing in accessibility. Or perhaps sometimes they feel they have done enough already in the way of investing in accessibility, for instance implementing an interactive toolbar or perhaps integrating closed captioning. However, these actions alone do not make your digital assets fully accessible, which means the company is also not fully compliant. To be successful in the long run, companies must invest properly in designing with accessibility in mind. What people need to know is that accessibility is a requirement, and every company has a social responsibility to make their digital assets as accessible as possible.
Often times companies will outsource projects, such as audits because they do not have the internal capabilities to perform these audits themselves. This means that audits are done manually, page-by-page, which can take a person many hours to complete, and of course, there is always room for human error in these situations. By utilizing an all-in-one software that empowers any employee to perform these tasks in-house, a company would be able to cut overall costs by at least 50%. The goal is not to replace manpower but to empower the user by utilizing the software. Digital accessibility is ultimately not only about how we design something but also about how we engage and teach users to interact with this new technology as well.
How Compliant is your Company?
ADA compliance means that any business open to the public must make their online content and services accessible to people who rely on assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to navigate the internet. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t learn about ADA compliance until they are served a lawsuit or legal demand letter. Where does your company fall in terms of compliance and overall accessibility? Have you considered the following issues when creating or sending digital content, internally or externally:
Alt Text Navigation Order
Color Contrast Form Labs & Alerts
Closed Captioning Document Accessibility
Whether your company is starting its accessibility journey or is already fully invested in it, being involved in the conversation is vital. People must prioritize learning more about being a fully accessible organization because it is not an issue going away anytime soon.
The writer is Tess Harmon, a business development manager at A11yable™ – which developed the A11y360™ -The Digital Accessibility Hub, which helps businesses to leverage digital accessibility in their business by making any team member a digital accessibility expert.