Today, trends are shifting to digital platforms, including e-commerce, phone applications, websites, and social media. More than two-thirds of the world’s population regularly use a mobile phone, and at the start of 2022, global Internet users climbed to 4.95 billion. User preferences for online and digital relationships with brands have continued to rise post-pandemic, and many are still seeking the 'return to normal' they were seeking before the outbreak.
Customers overwhelmingly prefer digital online forums, and that trend is staying strong. With this demand for access to the digital landscape comes the need to remain accessible. However – it’s critical to maintain the good accessibility habits developed from your past physical, face-to-face customer dealings. This is an area where many companies make errors – so how can you avoid these common errors and achieve your accessibility goals while navigating the digital arena?
Mistake number one: lack of research
Many companies assume that accessibility policies can be copied and pasted to the digital realm with little to no change, which is a huge misconception. Just as accessible standards are not necessarily one size fits all, the policies created specifically for one form of customer contact may not work well when faced with a brand-new way for customers to interact with you.
One common accessible design offered for in-person customer service is Braille signage. This can be wall signage, such as directional signage in libraries or stores, informational postage in museums, or Braille menus in restaurants. People with vision disabilities or blindness can access your business more comfortably with Braille, and providing it allows for more equitable access. However, because Braille is a tactile form of communication, it does not translate well to a digital environment.
People with vision disabilities use other assistive devices and technologies online and through apps, such as screen readers. Braille signage is less relevant in this format and may interfere with the job performed by their assistive technology. If a company that previously held a policy to offer all signage in Braille held to this policy without further research, they would fail to learn about other options that people with vision disabilities use online in place of Braille. This would be a significant error and cause a lot of inaccessibility and embarrassment.
Mistake number two: inflexibility
Unlike store policies for in-person shopping, policies for e-commerce must be flexible and ready to change at a moment’s notice. Online shopping doesn’t close, so learning opportunities are endless. Keeping policies rigid doesn’t favor a company.
Flexibility should be the name of the game concerning accessibility as well. With the explosive growth of online communities, disability advocacy groups are just around the corner to offer you feedback on your accessibility – or lack thereof. In 2021, 2352 website accessibility lawsuits were filed, and in 2022, many companies were repeat offenders. A full report of 2022 website accessibility lawsuits is here.
Many cases can be filed because accessibility policies are not changed quickly enough, and the bureaucracy of top companies slows the response times that could prevent lawsuits from occurring. In collaboration with continuous research into accessibility trends, make necessary changes quickly and efficiently. A client should only need to reach out once, informing that a change is required before the policy changes or the feature is added. If a screen reader cannot read an element of your website and the element is not purely decorative, then change it.
Mistake number three: lack of growth
Accessibility is not a one-time investment. To indeed be accessible, especially in a digital environment, a company must make an effort to evaluate and re-evaluate itself under the lens of accessibility standards over and over again. To be a true champion of accessibility, business leadership should go beyond what is required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Just as individuals within a company are responsible for their professional development, focusing on strategies to make themselves valuable employees to the business and building their strengths in their fields, companies are accountable for developing their accessibility skills. Regular training, like Accessibility.com’s Accessible Customer Service training, is vital to ensure that accessibility goals are being met internally and externally.
Focusing on maintaining professional growth in the areas of accessibility and disability support can help your company prevent itself from making critical mistakes in digital accessibility. When your staff is regularly trained and educated, common mistakes can be avoided, such as errors with access features.
With the shift towards a more digital future comes the potential for more accessibility errors to be made by big-name companies. However, there are ways to avoid mistakes with forward-thinking, education, research, and challenging word.