Being WCAG compliant has become a hurdle for brands undergoing their digital transformation.
Unfortunately, many companies are still missing the mark on accessibility — neglecting the needs of the world’s largest minority.
Accessibility has always been important, but there’s a heightened awareness now compared to just a few years ago. One survey found that 62% of accessibility practitioners believe COVID-19 raised the awareness and impact of accessibility on the digital channel. It only makes sense that as the digital customer experience has become the customer experience, expectations are higher. That includes accessibility expectations and WCAG compliance.
In this article, we’ll look at why accessibility is so important and what it means to be WCAG compliant. We’ll also share how you can help your CX team understand the impact and importance of WCAG compliance, and why it’s actually what’s best for all your customers — not just those with disabilities.
Why accessibility matters
Providing an inclusive customer experience is essential. According to the CDC, 26% of the US population is living with some type of disability. That’s over 1 in 4 people who could become frustrated — and leave your business — if they can’t easily use your website or app. In fact, 71% of users with disabilities will leave a website with low or no accessibility.
Ignoring the needs of a large portion of the population isn’t only bad for business, it can also lead to lawsuits. As the pandemic increased our screen usage, it also increased legal battles. Lawsuits alleging that web content was inaccessible to people with disabilities rose 64% in the first half of 2021 from a year earlier, with at least one new lawsuit filed every hour.
Accessibility matters. Improving accessibility means improving the customer experience, avoiding lawsuits, and simply doing the right thing.
Accessibility standards 101: WCAG compliance
There’s a lot of information about accessibility, and it can be overwhelming if you’re just starting to dive in. Start with WCAG — the North star of web accessibility.
WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines outline recommendations and establish best practices for making content accessible to people with disabilities, including blindness, deafness, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and more.
WCAG is published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the primary organization that creates international Internet standards. The guidelines evolve as needs and technologies change; WCAG 2.1 is the current iteration.
To give you an idea of the guidelines, here are a few high-level best practices outlined in WCAG 2.1:
- Provide text alternatives for any non-text content
- Include captions for all pre-recorded audio content
- Do not use color as the only way of conveying information
- Ensure users can navigate your website without using a mouse
- Use proper heading level structure on all web pages (for screen readers)
The full WCAG 2.1 is fairly comprehensive. It’s a great reference to use as your source of truth if you’re auditing your brand’s digital accessibility. Being WCAG compliant helps ensure your customers can find you, navigate your site, and access the information they need.
Helping your CX team understand accessibility
In the past, accessibility and WCAG compliance has been thought of as a responsibility of technology; designers and programmers. But accessibility has come into the spotlight in CX, and for good reason.
CX is the sum of every customer’s experience. Greater accessibility means an equal, excellent experience for everyone, making it an important and valued part of your product and customer journey. Accessibility/WCAG compliance isn’t just a box to check — it should be considered at every stage of CX.
Some ways to holistically incorporate accessibility in your CX include:
- Educate the entire team about accessibility by showing them, not just telling them, how different customers may interact with your brand.
- Ask for input and feedback from people of different abilities at every stage of development.
- Verify that your technology partners prioritize accessibility. Glance uses TPGi to issue our VPATs (Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates), which ensure compliance.
- Train agents in handling interactions with customers who may be using devices such as screen readers.
How meeting WCAG standards impacts all customers
Making accessibility and WCAG compliance an integral part of your CX shows your dedication to the customer and to the customer experience. Ensuring everyone can experience your brand equally and access great customer support isn’t only the right thing to do for the quarter of Americans living with disabilities — it’s the right thing to do for everyone, and has some unexpected benefits.
Improving accessibility through WCAG compliance can be great for SEO, helping all customers more easily find what they’re looking for. It also makes your website easier to use, which is essential for some, but beneficial to all.
Let’s look at some real-world examples:
- Some customers may have slower internet speeds and benefit from simple layouts.
- Clear navigation helps people who are not as comfortable with technology or who are using a new device.
- Video captions are helpful for the 92% of mobile users who are watching with the sound off. High color contrast is easier for people who are viewing their screen in bright light, such as outdoors.
In many ways, accessibility is CX. The goal is one and the same: to create a frictionless, seamless experience for all.
Being WCAG compliant and considering accessibility in your customer service processes can make some interactions a little different, but the heart of each engagement doesn’t change. Customers with disabilities are just customers — your job is to help them and give them an excellent experience.
Want to learn more about accessibility and how to launch your own program? Check out our webinar with TPGi: