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Inclusive Technology: Accessibility and The User Experience

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By: Cait Wilson, Ph.D. Candidate 

In North America, approximately 54 million people have disabilities, and CMOs are mandated to offer positive customer experiences for these individuals. Disregarding consumers with disabilities is inadmissible from a human rights and revenue perspective. Companies have taken strides in the physical world to offer positive customer experiences for people with disabilities (e.g., accessible aisles, ramps, and washrooms in brick and mortar stores). However, in the digital world, company websites lack basic accessibility requirements that make the digital user experience effortless for people with disabilities.

 How do companies ensure they are offering positive user experiences for individuals with disabilities? Many companies partner with not-for-profits (that specialize in the needs of individuals with disabilities) to ensure their digital footprint is inclusive and accessible. Two prominent not-for-profits that help corporations progress their accessibility efforts are the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind.

Implementing a Strategy  

The National Association of the Deaf partnered with Lyft and Uber to improve their app for individuals who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. For hard-of-hearing drivers, a new trip request is signaled with a flashing light in addition to the existing audio notification. The option to call a deaf or hard-of-hearing driver is turned off and riders instead have the ability to text if they need to get in contact. There are also resources provided in American Sign Language to reduce the language barrier between drivers and riders.

 The National Federation of the Blind recently partnered with Expedia to offer accessibility improvements on their website. Individuals who are blind commonly use screen readers (i.e., software applications that read a webpage’s text content audibly and offers visual cues). Expedia’s engineers added text to pictures and structured the code so users with assistive technology can successfully navigate the website pages. The National Federation of the Blind tested the accessibility features that were added to the website and provided feedback to help ensure a great user experience.

Key Takeaways 

Companies should take an invested interest in making sure their apps and websites are accessible and inclusive to individuals with disabilities. One way to do so is to partner with not-for-profits who are knowledgeable on the technological needs of individuals with disabilities. The feedback from these organizations can be invaluable and help companies improve their digital presence, and provide a positive user experience to consumers with disabilities.


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