ADA compliance — short for the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design — means that all electronic information and technology (your website, social channels, etc.) must be accessible to those with disabilities.
In the competitive digital landscape of marketing for mattresses, inclusivity and accessibility are more than legal requirements. Embracing the accessible design principles of ADA-compliant marketing not only caters to the needs of individuals with disabilities but creates a welcoming environment for everyone, reinforcing your reputation as socially responsible and customer-centric.
In the United States, one in four people live with some form of disability. Many people assume an ADA-compliant marketing strategy is simply ensuring your website is accessible for screen readers and other assistive technologies. In other words, adjusting the font size and color.
The truth is that ADA compliance includes accommodating for a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, cognitive and motor impairment.
Let’s dive into what ADA compliance means for your store.
Is your website ADA-compliant?
Your website is owned digital property, and everything that happens there is ultimately your legal responsibility. Hiring an outside firm to conduct a website accessibility audit is a smart first step, especially if served with a lawsuit claiming your website violates the American with Disabilities Act. A reliable third party will take you beyond issues of readability and contrasting color choices and create a paper trail to show due diligence to comply.
Here are some basic issues to consider:
- Navigation. How easy is your site to navigate for keyboard-only users?
- Images. Can someone with a visual impairment hear your images? Alt-text provides a textual description of visual content, which allows screen readers to accurately convey information. Remember, accurate and descriptive alt text offers the added benefit of improved SEO.
- Videos. Can a hearing-impaired consumer read your videos? Labeling and captioning videos makes dynamic content accessible to everyone.
- Forms, links, buttons and other graphic elements. Including alt text descriptions of every piece of content on your site ensures that it’s accessible, regardless of the disability.
Are your social media channels ADA-compliant?
Every website — and that includes social media — is culpable under the law. While you are not responsible for the social media site itself, there are things you can do to ensure your marketing channels are more inclusive.
- Ensure all your business information is filled out properly on each social media site.
- Include alt text, closed captions and/or transcripts when posting digital media files. For example, can your videos be understood whether you’re reading, hearing or watching them?
- Social media platforms use object recognition technology to generate alt text — and it’s usually very good. If you’re concerned, do a quick review before posting. The National Institute of Blind People advises against using terms such as “image of” or “photo of” as screen readers automatically add that phrase. Also, be concise and economical in your wording as it takes longer to narrate alt text than to read it.
When you’re creating copy for images, consider how your words will impact those using accessibility tools — or folks with learning disabilities or just learning English. Here are some tips to help.
- Write in plain language, which means limiting abbreviations that can be confusing, no AlterNatiNG caps or ALL caps and no replacing letters with aser*sks.
- Write hashtags for screen readers, capitalizing each word: #WeLoveBedtime.
- Add hashtags to the end of your post rather than inserting them in line with your text. Same with emojis as they can disrupt the screen reading experience.
- Use inclusive language, such as gender-neutral pronouns.
- Stay up-to-date on each platform’s accessibility features and standards:
Is your email marketing platform accessible?
Even though there’s a lack of clear technical guidelines and requirements for email marketing, the standards used on your website and social media channels create a playbook of best practices.
- Subject line. A descriptive headline informs the reader of the content of the email — and its relevance to them — before they click.
- Headings. Clear headings allow readers to understand the structure and hierarchy of the content, which is helpful to those using screen readers or have challenges reading large blocks of text. Be sure to use HTML headings (<H1> and <H2>) rather than style elements such as colors or bold text.
- Concise copy. One of the key principles of WCAG is content that’s readable and understandable. Write clearly and avoid unusual words and abbreviations.
- Anchor text. Like descriptive headlines, meaningful link text gives readers the context they need to decide if the link is relevant to their needs. For example, “Dr. Breus is a well-known sleep doctor” is much more informative than “click here …”
- Alt text. Like your website and social media, labeling your images will provide critical information to those who can’t see them. It’s also important when an email provider blocks images and shows only the alt text, providing context to what should appear in that section.
Prioritizing accessible design allows consumers with disabilities to access your information and content without barriers. Along with mitigating potential legal risks, it can also yield considerable business results, as accessibility is ultimately human-centric design.