Making Websites and Digital Content Accessible


What can brands do to make digital content more accessible to audiences?


Diversity, inclusion, and equality are nonnegotiable parts of a marketer's job. Marketing to a diverse demographic is not just about checking off a box, but creating content that connects and includes everyone together, and of course, publishing and presenting the content in a way that is accessible to all. 

Companies that don't prioritize creating digital content, and in an accessible way, that is more inclusive to audiences will also miss out on business opportunities. For instance, more than 56 million Americans live with a disability, as reported by ANA. 

For instance, companies have a social responsibility to create experiences, such as website look, user navigation, and text options, that are ADA compliant. In doing so, this activates a consumer demographic totaling $490 billion in purchasing power.

Furthermore, 466 million people worldwide have some form of hearing loss, from those hard of hearing to deafness and 2.2 billion people have vision limitations. Not considering these communities results in loss, and creates a missed opportunity for web content. For example, in 2019, The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) "won a settlement against Harvard University for failing to place captions on online educational content for those who are deaf or hard of hearing," according to ANA.

Storm Smith, producer at BBDO L.A., stated at an ANA event, that to create more inclusive experiences, hiring practices have to change: "It's more of a question of what percentage of people with disabilities are in your workplace. How often do you hire them? Are they at the table are they in leadership roles? You have to be accountable. Ask yourself where you can find qualified people with disabilities to bring into your organization. There are a lot of resources and companies you can collaborate with that provide programs, residencies, and internships that facilitate the recruitment of people with disabilities."

Below are resources and best practices. 

Best Practices

    • 2021 ADA Website Accessibility Standards & Requirements. Skynet Technologies, 2021.
      This resource provides suggestions on how to build an ADA-compliant website. It covers elements such as Overall Website Look (Design, Structure, Color); User Navigation (Access, Control); Alternatives (Text, Video, Audio); Titles and Languages (Size, Descriptions).

      It also shares information on WCAG Guidelines (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines):

    • The Golden Benefits of Disability Inclusion and Accessibility. ANA, July 2020.
      Embedding accessibility solutions across digital platforms so people with disabilities can engage with content is not only a social responsibility, but an opportunity for marketers to reach an often-ignored consumer segment worth nearly half a trillion dollars. Some companies think that imbedding accessibility solutions is a poor use of time and money. This mindset leads to missed opportunities and potential lawsuits for failing to make content accessible. For example, in 2019, The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) won a settlement against Harvard University for failing to place captions on online educational content for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

    • Agencies Need to Implement Accessibility Measures When Designing Websites: Going Beyond Just Meeting ADA Compliance. Adweek, August 2019.
      This article references factors to consider when making a website accessible, such asColor Contrast; Fonts; Responsive Design; Photos; Video; Hyperlinks; Buttons; Menus; Terminology; Technical Development.

    • Achieving Accessibility in Email Marketing: For Marketers and Designers. Email Experience Council, 2019.
      This resource provides tips on making Email Marketing more accessible:



    • Website Accessibility Checklist: Should You Be Using One? Essential Accessibility, April 2021.
      A website accessibility checklist, sometimes referred to as an ADA compliance website checklist, provides a list of methods to improve the accessibility of your website, mobile app, or other digital asset. Here is a general checklist of accessibility measures along with descriptions of how some people with disabilities may be affected: Alternative Text for Images; Text Resizing; Keyboard Navigation; Page Titles; Flashing and Blinking Content Elements; Video/Audio Content; Color Contrast.

    • Social Media Accessibility Checklist. Alexa Heinrich, 2021.
      Created by Alexa Heinrich, this checklist can be used to double-check your content before posting it to social media. Per Heinrich, "Please note that this checklist is not meant to be exhaustive or a fix-all for your content. It should be treated as a starting point to help you learn about basic best practices for digital accessibility." The checklist covers areas such as Hashtags, Emojis, Characters & Symbols, Images, Video, and more:

Consumers and Trends


    • Slowly, Brands are Improving their Digital Accessibility. ANA, June 2021.
      Brands are adopting more assistive tools for the deaf and hard of hearing, but major gaps remain. While brands and organizations continue to bolster their communications for people with hearing loss, significant gaps persist. The recently released 2020 State of Captioning report found tha64 percent of business professionals reported captioning all or most of their online video content, up from 58 percent in 2019 and 85 percent of respondents captioned their social media videos. The respondents' confidence in understanding captioning compliance rose to 32 percent in 2020, from 22 percent in 2019. Still, without appropriate quality control, machine-generated captioning can be anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent inaccurate and must be edited manually to be adequately accessible.

    • To Effectively Reach People with Disabilities Brands Must Prioritize Accessibility and Inclusivity. MAGNA, April 2021.
      This article references a study which queried over 800 people in the U.S. and UK with visual, hearing, cognitive or speech disabilities. The study can be accessed here: Digital Inclusion: The Necessity of Accessibility. MAGNA/Current Global/IPG, April 2021.

    • Why Accessible Marketing is the Future, According to an Inclusive Design Expert. HubSpot, 2020.
      In this article, Christine Mallon, Global Head of Inclusive Design and Accessibility at Wunderman, discussed the following principles of inclusive design that can be used by marketers when creating accessible web experiences and content:
      • Recognize Exclusion: Be aware that there are consumers who are vision, hearing, and mobility impaired...Consider these questions:
      • Dexterity Experience: What kind of movement must a user perform to interact with my site or content?
      • Vision Experience: What shapes, colors, text, and graphics must a user understand to consume my content?
      • Hearing Experience: What sound does my content produce that are required for a user to consume my content?
      • Thinking Experience: How much time must a user spend with my content to truly interpret and understand it?

Once a marketer runs their content through these questions, they will have a better understanding of what improvements can be made to simplify the work and make it more accessible:

      • Solve for One, Extend to Many. Marketers can solve customer problems through design and content. Christina Mallon referenced some consumer products that were designed for people with disabilities, but have become a part of mainstream culture:
      • Touchscreens: Originally designed for people with mobility issues and sold to Apple to be used across all mobile devices globally.
      • Electric Toothbrush: Originally designed for people with limited motor skills to improve dental health. Now used by millions for superior cleaning.
      • Closed Captioning: Originally created for people with a hearing impairment. Now used for people learning a new language or consuming content without audio.

These product designs for people with disabilities have made their way into daily life for all, demonstrating that by creating for people with disabilities, marketing content can be adopted by a larger audience. Mallon also shared these tools which can help marketers to create accessible content:

      • WebAIM Color Contrast Checker: A contrast color checker that gives you results in real time for regular and large text.
      • Inclusive Components: A pattern library with a focus on inclusive design. Each post explores a common interface component and comes up with a better, more robust, and accessible version of it.
      • Color Oracle: A free color blindness simulator for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It shows you in real time what people with common color vision impairments see.
      • Vox Product Accessibility Guidelines: A comprehensive checklist for designers, engineers, and project managers.
      • axe Google Chrome Extension: Test any site for accessibility violations using the Chrome inspector.
      • Contrast: A macOS app for quick access to WCAG color contrast ratios.

      • The Rise in ADA Accessibility Problems. ANA, January 2020.
        This webinar covered how the Americans with Disabilities Act is impacting businesses that interact with customers online and how companies can mitigate risk by creating inclusive web, mobile, and product experiences through digital accessibility testing.


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"Making Websites and Digital Content Accessible ." ANA, July 2021.