Brands should prioritize inclusivity when targeting people with disabilities, study
People with disabilities, representing 15 percent of the global population, regularly consume all types of content, but are they able to fully access that content comfortably?
A new study by Current Global, MAGNA and the IPG Media Lab, “Digital Accessibility: The Necessity of Inclusion,” answers this question and more by revealing that brands must prioritize accessibility and inclusivity in communications planning – it’s no longer a “nice to have.”
With a collective global buying power of $8 trillion, this community represents a significant audience for marketers to exclude by default or design:
285 million people are visually impaired; 39 million are blind and 82 percent of all blind people are age 50+.
466 million people have disabling hearing loss; by 2050, that number will rise to over 900 million.
Between 1-3% of the population has an intellectual disability, as many as 200 million people; intellectual disability is significantly more common in low-income countries – about 16 in every 1,000 people.
About 18.5 million people have a speech, voice, or language disorder.
George Coleman, Co-CEO, Current Global: “Content is published every day that’s inaccessible to many, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The agency made an industry-first commitment in December 2020 that every piece of communication developed, curated or published on behalf of the firm and its clients will meet the highest accessibility standards. 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.”
Study participants had visual, hearing, cognitive, or speech disabilities. The findings show that people with all types of disabilities consume many forms of media, yet have trouble accessing content comfortably and with ease, even when using assistive tools.
Understanding the lived experiences of people with disabilities clearly shows assistive tools don’t always work, with the content itself being half the problem. In addition, the study found that accessibility in communications has a direct impact on how people feel about a brand.
People with disabilities are regularly consuming all forms of content weekly or more often, particularly visual content (98%): Social media, TV shows and short video clips are favored by survey participants (89%, 86%, and 80% respectively).
Social media platforms are comparatively difficult to use: No matter the type of disability, people find social media somewhat difficult or very difficult to use (visual: 22%; hearing: 17%; cognitive: 23%; speech: 27%). Some of the problems reported include small text, misleading buttons, ads interfering with actual posts, far too many options and menus, and hard to navigate.
Assistive tools are a flawed experience: 54% of respondents, regardless of disability, use an assistive tool to help read, view, or listen to content; 64% of those who use an assistive tool reported having problems consuming content even with an assistive tool and 34% have problems consuming content because of the tool itself. Moreover, 56% of the overall audience needs assistive tools, but don’t have access to them – citing cost as a major issue.
Lack of accessibility has become a normalized experience: On the surface, people think brands are doing a good job (40%), but standards are low to begin with; the study found that people with disabilities were not sure what changes companies should make.
Inaccessible communications cause negative emotions and can have serious repercussions for brands:81% reported a negative emotional response when a brand’s communication was inaccessible, with 38% also feeling frustrated. When brands are accessible, they reap a host of benefits, with 60% taking a positive brand action and 81% having a positive emotional response and feeling connected to the brand.
Kara Manatt, SVP, Intelligence Solutions, MAGNA: “It’s astounding how much work still needs to be done to make communications accessible to people with disabilities. 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.”
The full “Digital Accessibility: The Necessity of Inclusion” study, which queried over 800 people from the United States and United Kingdom, can be found here