The word “inclusion” has been a hot topic in recent years. Companies are seeking ways to be more inclusive and eliminate bias for both their employees and their customers. In the workplace, inclusion is a culture in which people of all backgrounds, colors, races, religions, and genders can feel comfortable and valued. Customers should also have the same inclusive experience.
However, there is a group that is often overlooked, even if it is unintentional. These are people who fall under the Americans with Disabilities act. In 1990, the ADA became law, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The law is intended to cover work, education, transportation, and more.
The Oxford definition of inclusion includes the following: The practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.
As it applies to sales and marketing, there seems to be a lot of focus on minority groups and less on those who have physical or mental disabilities. That’s where accessiBe comes in. I read an article on its site written by CEO Shir Ekerling, in which he said that they analyzed 10 million web pages and found most of them failed with regard to ADA and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
In other words, almost all websites are not accessible to everyone, which means organizations aren’t practicing inclusion to their capabilities.
Improving Websites for Online Inclusion
Imagine a blind person opens your website. Are you set up to accommodate them so they can learn about your products and services? Have you considered that a video might be a problem for people with epilepsy?
How can a company transition its website to be inclusive and meet the needs of customers with unique requirements?
I initially thought this would be a very expensive project. Well, I thought wrong. I connected with accessiBe to learn about this important topic and interviewed Strategic Partnerships Manager Rafi Glantz for Amazing Business Radio. I was surprised to find out that for a very affordable monthly fee, even for small businesses, I could convert my website to be inclusive and meet the WCAG guidelines.
Glantz said, “Accessibility cannot be widespread until it is affordable, simple enough for the average business owner to understand and install, and be a complete set-it-and-forget-it solution.”
As I shared my newfound knowledge with clients, company executives, and fellow entrepreneurs, I was surprised by how many of them had not thought about making their websites, their most important marketing tool, accessible to people with disabilities.
Creating Inclusive Digital Solutions
The purpose of the ADA was to protect the rights of people with disabilities regarding employment and access to the “activities of places of public accommodations.” These include schools, retail stores, offices, recreation, medical facilities, and other public areas.
An obvious example is how ramps have replaced or have been built alongside steps for wheelchair accessibility. As innovation has been advancing throughout the years, and websites have become an important part of our daily life for shopping, learning, seeking information, and more, why shouldn’t websites be considered?
In The Biden Plan for Full Participation and Equality for People with Disabilities, U.S. President Joe Biden includes “Increase Access to the Internet.” While websites aren’t specifically mentioned in this paragraph, you can see the potential crossover. Companies must create digital solutions that are accessible to everyone.
According to Glantz, it is the law and it is starting to be enforced. In 2018, the Department of Justice ruled that business websites are considered places of public accommodations and must be made accessible, but the law itself, ADA Title III, has a standard of reasonable effort, which makes the interpretation of the law somewhat unclear. When challenged in court, judges are referring to the WCAG as the standard.
Glantz’s closing comment is a perfect way to close out this article: “Telling people that you’re an accessible company that wants to open their doors to everybody is a positive thing that will increase your brand reputation and help ensure every customer has a positive experience with you.”
This article has been reprinted with permission from Shep Hyken’s Forbes’ article.
Shep Hyken is the Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. As a customer service and experience expert, Hyken helps organizations create amazing customer and employee experiences. His books have appeared on bestseller lists including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others.