No one left behind: Why brands should prioritize accessibility

Current Global, Magna and IPG Media Lab study spotlights social media’s burden on the disabled community.

Most people take social media for granted as a part of their everyday lives. But for people with disabilities, participating in the online conversation isn’t always easy.

Despite making up 15% of the global population and having a disposable income of more than $8 trillion, accessibility remains an issue for people with disabilities.

Current Global, Magna and the IPG Media Lab released a study on Wednesday, Digital Accessibility: The Necessity of Inclusion, which surveyed more than 800 people living with visual, hearing, cognitive or speech disabilities across the U.S. and the U.K. 

They found that 98% of people with disabilities consume content weekly, particularly visual content, including social media (89%), TV shows (86%) and short video clips (80%). 

But people across the disability spectrum agree that platforms are difficult to use, including 22% of people with visual impairments, 17% of people with hearing disabilities, 23% of people with cognitive disabilities and 27% with speech impairments. 

They cited problems such as difficult navigation, interference from ads, small text, misleading buttons and too many menus and options. One anonymous respondent specifically called out Instagram for being “difficult to understand” because they could “rarely see what I’m looking for.”

While some platforms offer assistive tools for the disabled community, most agree they are hit or miss, with 64% reporting trouble consuming content with assistive tools. More than half (56%) of respondents don’t have access to assistive tools because of high costs. 

But the onus isn’t all on media platforms. Brands also have to prioritize accessibility by focusing on what people can do — not what they can’t. 

According to the study, 81% of respondents reported a negative emotional response (31% citing frustration) when they encounter inaccessible brand communications. When brands are accessible, 81% of respondents say they feel connected to the brand and have a positive emotional response. 

Brands overall are not great at accessibility, according to the survey, in which just 40% of respondents said brands are doing a “good job” in this area. 

“Content is published every day that’s inaccessible to many, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” George Coleman, co-CEO of Current Global, said in a statement. “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.”

In response to the survey, Current Global partnered with the Public Relations & Communications Association to publish the PRCA’s Accessible Communications Guidelines, which helps agencies be more inclusive of the disabled community with clear guidelines and practices. On social media, for example, brands can add alternative text to images, caption videos and indicate if hyperlinks lead to audio, picture or video files.   

“It’s astounding how much work still needs to be done to make communications accessible to people with disabilities,” Kara Manatt, SVP of intelligence solutions at Magna, said in a statement. “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.”

This story first appeared on campaignlive.com. 

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