New study finds brands must prioritize accessibility and inclusivity to reach people with disabilities

reaching people with disabilities It’s no secret that people with disabilities aren’t always considered when it comes to the accessibility of different services, whether that’s a missing ramp in front of a restaurant or a lack of ALT texts for images online. Current Global, MAGNA and IPG Media Lab conducted a study to determine where the access barriers really are and how to overcome them. Here are their results. 

What was the study about?

The study “Digital Accessibility: The Necessity of Inclusion” answers the question of whether people with varying disabilities can comfortably access all types of content, and if not, why that is and how to solve this. 

Why was the study conducted?

According to Current Global, people with disabilities represent a significant audience for marketers with a collective global buying power of $8 trillion. Many of the 15 percent of people with disabilities around the globe are excluded by default. Current Global states that 285 million people are to some degree low vision; 466 million are hard of hearing; 200 million people live with an intellectual disability, and an additional 18.5 million people have a speech, voice, or language disorder. 

“Content is published every day that’s inaccessible to many,?but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said George Coleman, Co-CEO of Current Global. The agency made an industry-first commitment in December 2020 that every piece of communication developed, curated or published on behalf of the firm and its clients will meet the highest accessibility standards. “If brands don’t adjust their communications strategies to reach all audiences, they will miss out on forging long-lasting relationships with a large population of consumers,” he added.

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Who was involved?

The study was conducted by Current Global, a part of IPG’s DXTRA unit and its portfolio of public relations and communications firms, in collaboration with MAGNA, the leading global media investment and intelligence company, and IPG Media Lab, which identifies and researches innovations and trends that will change the media landscape. Their study involved 807 people from two countries: the UK and the USA. The participants had visual, hearing, cognitive or speech disabilities and were asked about their media consumption habits as well as their point of view on communication from companies today.

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What were the results?

  • 98 % of people with disabilities are regularly consuming all forms of content. Social media, TV shows and short video clips are favored by survey participants. 
  • Social media platforms are somewhat or very difficult to use, no matter the type of disability (visual: 22%; hearing: 17%; cognitive: 23%; speech: 27%). Problems reported include small text, misleading buttons, ads interfering with actual posts, far too many options and menus, and hard to navigate. 
  • Assistive tools are flawed. 54% of respondents, regardless of disability, use an assistive tool to help read, view, or listen to content; 64% of those who use an assistive tool reported having problems consuming content even with an assistive tool and 34% have problems consuming content because of the tool itself. Moreover, 56% of the overall audience needs assistive tools, but don’t have access to them – citing cost as a major issue. 
  • Lack of accessibility has become the norm. People think brands are doing a good job (40%), but standards are low to begin with; the study found that people with disabilities were not sure what changes companies should make. 
  • Inaccessible communications have serious repercussions for brands. 81% reported a negative emotional response when a brand’s communication was inaccessible, with 38% also feeling frustrated. When brands are accessible, they reap a host of benefits, with 60% taking a positive brand action and 81% having a positive emotional response and feeling connected to the brand.

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In summary, the findings show that people with all types of disabilities consume many forms of media, yet have trouble accessing content comfortably and with ease, even when using assistive tools. Understanding the lived experiences of people with disabilities clearly showed assistive tools don’t always work, with the content itself being half the problem. In addition, the study found that accessibility in communications has a direct impact on how people feel about a brand.  

“It’s astounding how much work still needs to be done to make communications accessible to people with disabilities,” said Kara Manatt, SVP, Intelligence Solutions, MAGNA. “This audience is consuming a lot of content, so brands need to ensure they put in the work to make communications more accessible. Assistive tools are only part of the solution – if communications aren’t accessible, the tools can’t really be effective.” A picture showing different symbols for varying disabilities such as visual, hearing, mobility, cognitive, speech, neural

What can you do to improve accessibility?

We all can create content that is accessible. Most of us are active on social media, but did you know how you can make your posts more accessible to your audience that includes people with disabilities?

For example, social media posts: 

  • Images: Always include ALT text (for low vision and blind people)
  • Videos: Include transcripts (for deaf-blind people), closed captions (for hard of hearing or deaf people) and audio description (for low vision or blind people)
  • Hashtags: Place at the end of the post and capitalize the first letter of compound word hashtags (#RepresentationMatters)

These tips and many more can be found in the Accessible Communications Guidelines provided by Current Global in collaboration with Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA) and in partnership with the PR Council. The free guidelines detail the tools available and the standards and processes to apply to make content as inclusive as possible.

“As professional communicators, it is incumbent on us to make communications inclusive for people of all abilities so we can reach every member of society,” said Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA and Chief Executive, ICCO. “The technology and tools to help us do this are readily available, so the key priority is to update the way we work to adhere to best practices laid out in the guidelines.” 

And every one of us can help to implement those tools and make content accessible to all!

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