In this day and age, accessibility plays a vital role to broaden our perspectives and embrace inclusion. Looking at how our global values and standards are changing for the better, we should now strive for excellence in what we do. Goals and objectives are continuously shifting towards making things as easy and accessible for everyone. But how are we able to maintain and improve these standards in favor of a more equal and accessible online world? Well, this is the question we want to answer by showing you how to increase your company's accessibility impact.
When trying to increase your digital accessibility, you should keep in mind that your information, product, or service should be open for everyone to use.
Here are some simple steps that can easily be implemented:
1) Make sure your information is easier to read.
We know it can be hard to keep stuff simple - especially when you are asked to provide more information about a specific topic that you are very passionate about. However, try to keep long, complex details to a minimum and use simple language. This can be very beneficial for everyone that is not considered an expert on your topic. That is because they will be able to understand more easily and quickly what you are actually talking about. It’s additionally very helpful for everyone using assistive technologies, like a screen reader for example.
Having technology read rather simple sentences to you out loud seems to have a nice touch, right? Plus, it definitely appears to be more efficient than trying to recall and constantly unpuzzle the true meaning of the information hidden in complex and long sentences.
Bottom line, when you are trying to improve accessibility, make sure that the information displayed is open and easy for everyone to understand and access.
2) Provide descriptions for images and videos
Moving on to the next point of action, you should consider providing descriptions of content that is linked to images and videos. Similar to the point of making content more easily understandable for people using assistive technologies, including descriptions of images and videos can avoid confusion when navigating through a webpage.
This is because important information contained in an image without a description will not be recognized when using a screen reader. To insert a description for such an image, you can use the alt text function. This alternative text feature is meant to explain the meaning of the image and its relation to the information provided in the text, thus limiting the chance of confusion for the visually impaired.
Likewise, when using videos to help visualize your content, don’t forget to include subtitles to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to understand and access the information efficiently.
It goes without saying that providing a short description for auditive or visual content can also just be helpful in general. Including additional information can help structure displayed information and make it easier for any user to navigate - especially when there is a lot of information at hand. Users are able to navigate quickly and find the information they are interested in and looking for, resulting in a better user experience.
3) Keep color contrast in mind
When talking about digital accessibility, one key measure should be concerning the use of color on your digital platform. Even though colors seem to be a nice way to make your website and information more exciting and easy on the eye, this in a literal sense may not be the case. It seems that especially color contrast can be a big issue for the visually impaired or when trying to read information digitally. Additionally, using low color contrast, such as the colors red and orange next to each other, may also be hard to interpret by people that are color blind or are looking at a screen while in the sun.
Looking at these three simple ways to improve your accessibility impact, they are also common practices that are mentioned in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that raise awareness about how to enhance digital accessibility. These provided guidelines are also compliant with legal regulations, like the European Accessibility Act and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of the U.S. federal government for example, that businesses are required to follow.
Regarding these Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the companies Cisco and Accenture have made an outstanding effort to implement them.
According to Accenture, they are currently on the journey of making 75% of all of their global high-traffic internal platforms accessible. Starting off with implementing the WCAG to make their websites more accessible, Accenture also introduced a program that further aims to improve interactions with their technology and services by being more and more compliant with universally accepted accessibility standards. After creating an “accessibility program charter”, as well as a strategy to make their technology more inclusive and accessible, the “Virtual Accessibility Center of Excellence” was established as a growing knowledge base on accessibility and how to improve it. Accenture also took initiative in forming accessibility steps to be kept in mind when creating software and provided developers with training on the knowledge, testing, and evaluation requirements for writing a more accessible code.
Moving over to Cisco, they have also contributed a lot of work towards specifically improving digital accessibility.
Next to showing the many accessibility standards and laws they comply with, they also have their own Accessibility Initiative. This initiative is dedicated to generating methods and procedures for incorporating accessibility throughout their operations, in order to make their websites, documentation, products, and services usable for everyone.
Additionally, Cisco has worked on a project known as ‘Life Changer’. Here, their technology was improved to transcend location, accommodation, and mobility issues, giving employees with disabilities the option to work remotely in an environment that they were most comfortable with.
Given the huge importance digital accessibility already has and the even bigger role it will play in the future of our growing digital world, we should now more than ever pay attention to these digital accessibility practices and consider implementing them. Making sure that your content or provided information can be reached by everyone should become a common norm to follow. However, it also is important to look at the implementation of digital accessibility realistically. In order to make a company more accessible, we know that context and current resources will always play a big role in what extent something can be made more accessible. Therefore, we want to stress that even the smallest steps toward improving your digital accessibility can have a significant impact on your user experience.