Why You Should Include People with Disabilities in Your Marketing Personas

Personas are a key component of successful marketing, but more often than not, the personas created, and therefore the personas being marketed to, don’t include people with disabilities. Considering that up to one in four (26%) adults in the United States have some type of disability, according to the Center for Disease Control, not only are brands missing out on a large percentage of the market, but they’re also being exclusive to those with certain abilities.

The above begs the question of how people with disabilities are being considered and included when brands are creating their customer personas. Are there specific steps being taken to ensure that what’s being produced is accessible and inclusive? The answer likely varies from company to company. The good news, however, is that there are a number of opportunities to assure you’re reaching and resonating with a broad range of potential customers.

Workplace inclusivity with a person in a wheelchair and a colleague in a casual office setting with a dog lying nearby.

What is a Persona?

Before highlighting the ways in which brands can expand their personas to include people with disabilities, it’s important to understand what personas are.

In user-centered design and marketing, a persona is a fictional character created to represent a specific user type that may utilize a website, brand, or product in a definable way. Personas are designed to represent the needs of a large group of users – which means they should also include people with disabilities. To accurately represent everyone in a potential customer base, all abilities need to be considered. 

What is a Persona in Marketing? 

Personas help marketing teams get inside their customers’ minds to figure out exactly what they want or need in a product or service. They also enable marketers to personalize the messages they want to deliver to specific demographics. This approach helps break customers into segments. Marketers can then target those segments in ways that are able to most effectively engage them with the brand. 

What is Accessibility in Marketing? 

In marketing, accessibility pertains to the degree to which the materials you produce can be easily accessed and understood by people with disabilities. This includes ensuring your website is readable through screen readers, using alt text to describe images for those who are blind or have difficulty seeing, and providing transcripts for videos for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Why is Accessibility in Marketing Important? 

There are a number of reasons why accessibility in marketing (and accessibility in general) is important. As mentioned above, 26% of adults have some type of disability, which means they represent a significant portion of a brand’s potential customer base. That’s a large percentage of the market to miss out on if materials are inaccessible.

Another reason why accessibility in marketing is important is legality concerns. In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all services, programs, and activities of the state and local government. Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination by businesses open to the public, for example, retail stores, banks, hotels, hospitals, restaurants, etc.

Whether falling under Title II or Title III, an inaccessible website limits the ability of people with disabilities to access public products or services, which is a violation of the ADA and its requirements for public web solutions to be readily accessible and usable by everyone. If not, ADA-compliant, the consequences may be significant. The risks include increased risk of litigation, damage to brand and reputation, and as mentioned above, missed opportunities to reach potential clients. 

How to Expand Personas to Include People with Disabilities

Expanding your marketing personas to include people with disabilities is definitely easier than one may think. By incorporating the following tactics in your development process, you’re ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to access your materials.

Consider accessibility from the beginning.

When crafting your ideal personas, make sure that you’re including individuals with a diverse range of abilities. Think about the specific needs and challenges people with disabilities may have when interacting with your brand – this includes your website, emails, downloadable (such as a whitepaper), and more.

The concept of ‘shift left’ is the perfect opportunity to consider accessibility from the beginning. As the practice of moving the testing, quality, and performance evaluations to the early stages of development, oftentimes before any code is even written, shift left considers a wide array of users earlier and can reduce remediation efforts later on. 

Take the additional steps.

When actually creating your materials, it’s important to invest the additional time and effort to ensure you’re providing the necessary means to access them. For example, adding text-alternative descriptions, also known as ‘alt-text’ for all graphics, or closed captions for all video materials. This also means checking the contrast between text and background color to ensure the content is easily perceivable. Further, a website’s programming team can provide transcripts which then come with added SEO benefits of driving untapped traffic.

Additionally, attending conferences related to accessibility is a great place for any user to learn more about the topic. Check out the ADA National Network website for different accessibility events across the country.

Test your materials.

Always test the materials you produce. Accessibility tools like screen readers and color contrast checkers allow you to test your website, emails, and other marketing materials to ensure they are accessible and easy to use for people with disabilities.

There are a multitude of accessibility testing tools available online to test your materials. For screen readers, try NV Access NVDA, Project metalmouth, VoiceOver, or Recite Me. Some common color contrast checkers include Colour Contrast Analyser (CCA), Color Contrast Checker, Seige Media Contrast Ratio, WCAG Color Contrast Checker, and more. 

Continue to educate yourself and your team members on best practices.

Thanks to our good friend the world wide web, there are a significant number of resources available online to help you learn more about how to incorporate accessibility best practices into your marketing. Here are a few of the most trusted authorities on the best practices to support accessibility.

Siteimprove, a software company focused on accessibility, has a ton of great resources throughout its website. From a content library filled with in-depth downloadable whitepapers to blogs, on-demand webinars, and more, Siteimprove provides the latest news, trends, and how-to lessons.

Inclusive Components is a blog that highlights the various components of an accessible website. It takes a deep dive into individual web components and provides suggestions on how to achieve accessibility for each one.

W3.org is a one-stop shop for all things accessibility. It’s an online, international community that provides the latest news, resources, and criterion for success.

The A11Y Project is an open-source website that allows everyone to view its underlying code as well as collaboratively participate in its development if they so choose. It houses contributor blogs on a variety of accessibility topics and posts educational resources to help people learn more. 

How Does Accessible Marketing Impact Your Business?

The fact of the matter is, accessibility is just good for business. According to Siteimprove, 69% of visitors report that they will leave a website immediately if it’s not accessible. This means that a brand that prioritizes accessibility, on its website and with its marketing, is more likely to see higher conversions as it helps eliminate any barriers that may stand between it and its audience. Accessibility is also great for your website and it’s search engine value. The more accessible your website is, the higher its SEO value, which means the higher chance a large user base can discover your business.

Additionally, accessibility helps brands expand, grow, and garner a positive impact. And perhaps most importantly, accessibility demonstrates that a brand actively cares about how customers experience and interact with it – no matter their abilities.

Expert Accessibility Services

Americaneagle.com works diligently to provide businesses with the confidence that their websites and marketing materials provide inclusive access to all users. We offer accessibility consulting, assessments, remediation, and more, and can help you navigate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure you’re in compliance with accessibility laws around the world.

To speak to an Americaneagle.com accessibility expert, contact us today

If you aren’t sure about your website’s ADA compliance status, we can help. We offer an accessibility assessment that includes a deep dive into the following items: images lacking alt text, heading issues, keyboard usability, missing labels for input controls, and more. Fill out our form to get started

About Author

Taylor Karg
Taylor Karg is Americaneagle.com’s Marketing Content Writer. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. Over the years, she’s gained experience writing for B2B brands across a variety of industries. Taylor prides herself on her ability to tell a story – and having fun while doing it. When not interviewing or writing, Taylor can be found eating tacos and watching the latest Netflix, Hulu or HBO series.

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