What is Digital Accessibility and Why is it Important?

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Did you know that only 3% of the internet is currently accessible to people with disabilities?

That’s an astonishingly low number when 1 in 5 people globally live with a disability.

As social media and digital marketing professionals, we’re often focused on creating engaging content that will build a loyal audience and drive conversions. But not all of our audience members have the same abilities to access and engage with our content.

Digital accessibility should be an essential component of our marketing strategy and social media managers should prioritize that social media content is accessible and usable to everyone, including individuals with disabilities.

This is such a pertinent topic that we included it in our top social media trends to watch in 2023, and we recently had Digital Accessibility Expert, Nicole Wight, give a live training in our Connect Group on what we need to know to begin making our content accessible immediately.

Here are the key takeaways.

Why Digital Accessibility is Important for Social Media Managers

Let’s start off with the why.

Why should we care about digital accessibility as social media managers, aside from the fact that it’s just the right thing to do?

Well, think of how many people visit your client’s website in a day, a month, or a year. Now think about that number of people and know that about 1 in 4 people who visit a website identify as having some kind of disability. So it’s very likely that those visits to your client’s website are being made by someone who has a disability, whether it be a visual impairment, hearing impairment, cognitive disability, etc.

According to the 2020 report on The Global Economics of Disability, “With an estimated population of 1.85 billion, people with disabilities are an emerging market larger than China. Their friends and family add another 3.3 billion potential consumers who act on their emotional connection to people with disabilities. Together, disability touches 73% of consumers. Together, the disability market controls over $13 trillion in disposable income.”

The disability community is the largest underrepresented group in the world, so it’s essential to ensure that our content is inclusive.

The best place to start is going to be WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which are a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the Internet.

These web content guidelines will help you understand how to make your content more accessible.

Digital Accessibility Helps SEO

In 2021, Google announced a new user experience update making on-page user experience an SEO ranking factor.

This means that search engines are wanting accessibility to be a forethought and not an afterthought on websites. They’re looking for headings on websites that provide easy and clear navigation, they’re looking for image alt text and they’re looking for WCAG guidelines to be followed.

Making your content accessible and following WCAG will help your clients rank much higher in SEO. Not only that but the 73% of consumers mentioned earlier are going to be more excited about your client’s brand because they now have the ability to like, interact, and engage with your accounts.

Creating Accessible Content

Creating accessible social media content can help you reach a wider audience, improve your SEO, and reduce legal risk, but most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.

There are so many ways to make your content more accessible, but for the purpose of this blog, we’re starting with the basics and the must-dos so that you can begin implementing these changes in your content creation today and create an accessible digital experience for users.

Here are the accessibility basics for content creation:

  • Image Alt Text: Alt Text is an alternative description using text to describe an image. Use descriptive alt text for images to provide context and ensure that individuals using screen readers can understand the content. Do not include “Image of” or “Photo of” – think of this as a Tweet-length description of the image itself (150 characters or less). Do not add alt text for the sake of SEO – stick to a short description of what the image is and refer to WCAG if you have questions. If you have the ability and the budget, test out your alt text with a screen reader such as JAWS.
  • Descriptions: Provide visual and audio descriptions for video content and content with audio. A visual description is a written description that provides information about the visual appearance of spaces, objects, people, and more. An audible description is a narration that provides information surrounding key visual elements in a video or visual presentation.
  • Captions & Transcripts: Captions and transcripts are the most basic way to provide access to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, as well as visual learners and a host of other users who use captions for various reasons. Going forward, make sure all of your video content has captions on the video and a transcript of the video when shared.
  • Accommodations: Ahead of webinars, meetings, presentations, and any interaction with an audience, ask or make sure the audience is asked if accommodations are needed in advance. This could look like sending the slides to a webinar ahead of time or ensuring that visual descriptions are going to be provided during a presentation. Asking about accommodations ahead of time ensures that everybody in an audience will have equal access to the interaction.
  • Ask: Get involved in the disability community. Chances are you know someone or can meet someone with a disability. Get to know them and understand if they are a safe space for questions. Ask about their experiences and what they need when it comes to accessing content. You can also follow disability advocates online, such as Gregory Mansfield and Alice Wong.
  • Keep Learning: It’s important to continue to learn and stay educated in the disability space. Not every disability is the same. Not every person with the same disability needs the same accommodations. Stay in the loop on AX changes!

Digital accessibility is about creating an inclusive online community, where everyone has equal access to information and resources. By ensuring your social media content is accessible to all, you are promoting equality and inclusivity.

Want to Know More About Digital Accessibility?

If you’re looking for more information on how to implement digital accessibility into your day-to-day as a social media manager, you can access Nicole’s full training session in our Social Media Pro Connect group!

Nicole has provided our Connect group with a free Social Media Content Accessibility Checklist to add to your social media playbook.

Connect is our private members-only thriving community of social media pros where you can stay sharp with “What’s Working Right Now” in Social Media.

Group perks include a supportive community where every question is answered, live weekly training and Q&A sessions, and access to our library of 270+ past video trainings.

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