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Web content accessibility is critical to digital marketing

Written by Scott Crumpler on Monday July 2, 2018

When organizations set out to establish an effective web presence to reach their target audience, they often overlook the value of Web Content Accessibility. People with disabilities are, by one report, estimated to comprise 18% of the global population, and it has never been easier to accommodate those disabilities with digital messaging. Version 2.1 of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines was released in June 2018, and marketers can't afford to ignore it.

Everyone is on the web.

Population and Income Data For PWD and Their Friends & Family

People with physical and mental impairment do, in fact, use the web to find information, products, and services. That includes the blind and deaf as well as people with age-related and cognitive disabilities. And, that audience has an estimated disposable income of more than a trillion dollarsWhen friends & family are combined with the population with disabilities, the ROD report linked above estimates a total disposable income of $3.9 trillion in the United States alone. This kind of data demonstrates how incorporating good web content accessibility within your organization's online presence extends beyond compliance and even community duty to a very real opportunity to reach a valuable audience.

Why is accessibility overlooked?

My experience as a marketing consultant, manager, and director over the past 20 years has been that most companies neglect to make their web content accessible for one of two reasons:

  • Ignorance
  • Perceived Cost

Ignorance is a sad side-effect of how little attention is paid to people with disabilities, but it's often innocent. Company executives, organization leaders, and small business owners aren't always (or perhaps even commonly) aware that the deaf and blind can browse the world wide web or that how you design your websites and structure your content can actually help people with disabilities to engage with it.

Perceived cost is actually another form of ignorance altogether. Some marketing managers and even inexperienced web developers are under the impression that following accessibility guidelines will result in much longer development timelines and substantially increased costs. It just isn't so. Virtually all organizations now recognize the value of good SEO in content and web design, and the good news is that developing your sites and content with accessibility in mind is also good for SEO. Sure, it takes more time to design and structure your content right, but the cost is negligible when you consider what you're giving up by ignoring it.

What can organizations do?

Larger companies and organizations should be hiring Web Producers, Marketing Directors, and Content Strategists who have a demonstrated understanding of the value of the WCAG as well as best practices for implementing them. Smaller companies that use contractors and consultants for their marketing activities and web presence should place a high value on professionals who understand and have experience with WCAG and who are aware of the latest version and how the published guidelines can be implemented during production of websites and content. The value in both cases will far exceed any premium paid for that expertise.

Why is it so important to make web content accessible?

As discussed at the beginning of this article, the portion of the population with some form of disability is substantial, and in the U.S. alone their disposable income is estimated at over $600 billion (and $3.9 trillion when combined with friends & family). No competent digital marketer would dare ignore that kind of spending power when reaching it brings the added benefit of greater success with their entire audience through SEO.

And designing and building an accessible web presence is not just for giant corporations. Marketing & Development Professionals like myself work with companies and organizations of all sizes to develop websites and digital content that is optimized for search and accessibility. The ROI from working with the right professionals can be immense and help you to reach an audience that your competitors may be missing out on entirely.

Search Engine Optimization and Accessibility go hand-in-hand, and you can achieve remarkable results by focusing on both.  Contact Brightwork Creative Media to learn how we can help make your sites more accessible and better optimized for search.