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5 best practices for communicating accessibly

Giving your customers the option to receive your products or services in braille, large print, audio or any other alternate format is no longer considered going the extra mile. Today, doing so is a business strategy that benefits organizations and their customers. In this article we highlight the demographic shifts along with statistics on disposable income of people with disabilities and the legislative requirements and best practices for accessibility.

THREE REASONS FOR ACCESSIBILITY

 

1. Changes in the Marketplace

There has been a demographic shift among people with disabilities and, as a result, evidence of increased spending power. In the United States alone…

  • People with disabilities control approximately $247B in disposable income. 1
  • Boomers represent a population of over 77 million people between the ages of 47 and 65, controlling an annual spending power of over $2 trillion. 1
  • The measured prevalence of a disability above age 65 is 51.8% 2

Boomers are already demanding products and services that adapt to their needs and desires. Evidence exists that the phenomenon of an aging population is global, and in G10 economies this segment has built more wealth than any generation in human history. 1

Image of senior wearing eye glasses depicting the low vision demographic; he’s dancing with young family members.2. Friends and Family

Often referred to as ‘caretakers’ this large group represents family, friends and those that have an innate reason to understand disability and its impact on those that they have an emotional connection with. Friends and family of people with disabilities have profound influence on the availability of accessible products and services ramifications for companies seeking to drive brand loyalty among its customers and increase retention. Globally, this segment conservatively represents (together with their friends and family) account for over 4.9T of purchasing power in North America. The number of consumers apt to move business due to lack of visual accessibility? 51 million!

3. Legislative Impact

Accessibility legislation mandates that your customers have access to information in their preferred format. The more access methods you offer, the stronger accessibility compliance will be. ADA requirements are outlined in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in “places of public accommodation” (businesses and non-profit agencies that serve the public) and “commercial facilities” (other businesses). Specific legislation pertaining to accessible communications is in section 36.303 Auxiliary aids and services also from the U.S. Department of Justice.

While legislative risks provide context to the importance of providing accessible products and services, these risks should never be the only driving force in your decision to fully meet the needs of your diverse customer base. Based on the statistics on people with disabilities, it just makes good business sense and should be a part of your ongoing customer communication strategy.

Neglecting the needs of people with disabilities, baby boomers and anyone who requires alternative forms of communication comes at a cost. The question then becomes, are you willing to exclude this affluent market simply because they didn’t have access to your products and services?

FIVE BEST PRACTICES FOR COMMUNICATING ACCESSIBLY

To get started communicating accessibly with your customers, please refer to the following best practices:

  1. Think about accessibility from the get go. Whenever you create documents or add new content to your website, ensure you create content that is accessible.
  2. Review your current customer information and communications. It is vital to ensure this type of information and communications is fully accessible as it ensures that people with disabilities understand statements and documents in order to make fully informed financial decisions.
  3. Make it accessible upon request. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to making information accessible and no two requests will be exactly the same. Work with your customers to find out what format works best for them.
  4. Provide accessible formats quickly. Once requested, you must provide accessible information to customers with disabilities as effectively as you provide communications for others.
  5. Let the public know. Ensure your company information and resources are readily available.

1 The Global Economics of Disability 2012
2 US Census Bureau, Americans with disabilities: 2005

Deanna White

Author Deanna White

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