Whether you are a CTO, CIO, CEO, or executive level director, digital accessibility is likely already on your radar or even a large part of your business strategy. However, are you thinking about accessibility as part of your brand experience? Do you acknowledge it as a task or part of your culture? How you approach accessibility will make a difference in optimizing the success of your business. In this article, we will outline how implementing accessibility will help shape culture and build your brand.
Why an Inclusive Brand Matters
Most business leaders acknowledge that brand is more than a logo. The success of your brand is based on an experience, and that means the experience with your digital environment. Inclusivity in that experience is paramount to your success.
Inclusion should mean that websites, applications, and digital technologies are accessible to people of all abilities, including those users with physical or cognitive impairments. Your company’s software, tools, and technologies should all be designed and developed so people with impairments can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact within the digital space as well as anyone.
If your company is not meeting these standards, you could be alienating an entire audience. This not only impacts your bottom line negatively, but also affects the perception of your brand in a negative way.
After all, according to Marty Neumeier, in his book The Brand Gap, brand is a gut feeling. It is the perception that anyone has with respect to their engagement with your brand. If your company’s digital experience falls short, the perception of your brand will suffer.
Build Brand through Empathy and Accessibility
Companies that don’t prioritize accessibility as part of their development and testing strategies will get left behind. Brent Stewart, a senior director analyst with the research firm Gartner stated that “By 2023, digital products in full WCAG Level 2 compliance will outperform their market competitors by 50%.”
Accessibility principles apply to real people who use your digital platforms in different ways. It is not enough to be compliant. To be truly accessible, your business needs to build a foundation based on empathy. Looking at the overall usability from an assistive technology user’s position will better enable performance and lead to a positive experience.
You won’t have a fully accessible product unless you include the individuals who benefit most from accessible design. That means including user insights from people with different physical or cognitive impairments with the design teams, the development teams, the testing teams, and the product teams. A good accessibility testing approach should also create a way for users to get in touch if they have feedback or issues. You can only know what’s most accessible by listening and collaborating with the lived experiences of individuals with impairments.
True Accessibility Creates Brand Connections
Your brand is about building human connections, and in the context of your digital experience that means considering how you are using automation along with accessibility testing. Automated tools are not always effective and when they fail, they can damage the experience and in turn the perception of the brand.
Companies that are solely reliant on a technology-based accessibility testing strategy will have gaps in software performance and failures in user experiences. That is why it is critical to include manual testers, especially testers who are impaired and familiar with assistive technology. Manual accessibility testers will have real empathy for what impaired users experience. And strategies based on empathy will lead to stronger brand connections and better business.
Overlay tools like those provided by companies like AccessiBe or UserWay are not reliable, and aligning your company with one of these services could be detrimental to your brand. These overlay tools do little to improve accessibility, and in some cases, make digital properties less accessible. The accessibility community has been vocal about failures in overlay tools and is pointing out the need for better performance. Recently, Forbes reported that the National Federation of the Blind accused AccessiBe of “harmful” practices and banned them from its national convention. Leveraging these tools will not lead to success and will probably affect your brand adversely in more ways than one.
Brand is Culture
What many great companies already know is that brand is built from the inside out. How your own employees perceive, embrace, and speak about your brand will shape your culture. If everyone that works for the company understands your values and prioritizes the importance of inclusion within the brand experience, your culture can thrive.
If a positive brand experience inside the company drives the experience outside the company, you will be more likely to be perceived in an authentic and positive way. Digital accessibility should be part of your brand strategy as well as your business strategy. It will not only drive business, it will also indicate your company’s effort to include everyone who uses your digital platforms and help shape an accessible culture in a broader sense.
Companies that embrace a culture of accessibility will incorporate accessibility into their existing teams at all stages of the software development lifecycle. They will ensure teams are adequately trained, have the right tools, have the right processes, and have the right support. Establishing the principles for why accessibility matters will create a culture that prioritizes those principles of inclusion.
Good Brand is Great Business
Many businesses approach accessibility as a necessary, but time-consuming and extraneous challenge. But what they are not seeing is that accessibility is a remarkable benefit and opportunity for the business.
Digital accessibility reaches a new market. According to W3, US annual discretionary spending from people with disabilities is over $200 billion and the global disability market is estimated at $7 trillion. Accessibility can also be a gateway to business with other companies and can provide differentiation for your own while boosting the perception and awareness of your brand.
Start Building Your Brand and Shaping Your Culture Today!
The best time to start building an accessibility program was yesterday, and the next best time is now. Companies can access and begin using the free WAVE tool by W3 which will allow you to run a quick scan and start fixing issues immediately.
You can also start working on digital accessibility now by partnering with an expert accessibility testing company like QualityLogic. It can seem challenging at first, but our teams will help you learn the basics about digital accessibility so you can begin making an immediate impact.
Ready to Learn More?
QualityLogic can help guide you on your path to digital accessibility. Contact us today to get started.