Establishing a culture of brand accessibility and inclusion is paramount for fostering a positive business reputation. Your business’s commitment ensures that all customers, irrespective of their unique backgrounds or characteristics, experience a sense of comfort and belonging when engaging with your company. Since the Disability Discrimination Act (1995), steps have been implemented to ensure everyone is treated equally. With around 80% of disabilities being invisible, there are a number of considerations which need to be taken to ensure that customers have the best experience possible without feeling excluded.
It’s imperative for businesses to prioritise accessibility as a core element of their business operations, demonstrating a genuine concern for vital societal issues. Companies that exhibit a commitment to accessibility tend to earn heightened trust and loyalty from both their employees and customers. By embracing accessibility in both online and offline aspects, your business can effectively connect with a broader audience.
How Do I Make Sure My Website Is Accessible?
Accessibility criteria extends onto your business online just as much as your physical property, so by considering how well-optimised your website's features are, you’ll be able to be much more accessible to your audience.
Spending time optimising your website is a great way to make it more accessible. If you want to check your website’s accessibility, there are a range of website accessibility checkers online that you can use including accessScan. These websites will give you a breakdown of the elements which are doing well along with recommendations on how you can improve your website to assist all users.
Having a focus on your accessibility practices will be beneficial for your SEO strategy overall, increasing your rankings in search engine results pages as well as supporting those who need additional help online. Search engines prioritise and rank websites that have taken the steps to ensure that their content is accessible as well as in line with their algorithms.
Many websites incorporate embedded videos to enhance the customer experience, showcasing products or services effectively. However, it's crucial to prioritise user sensitivity by ensuring that videos do not autoplay. This consideration supports users who may be sensitive to flashing lights or experience sensory processing issues, contributing to a more inclusive and user-friendly online environment. Video content is also super helpful for individuals who may struggle with reading or text elements - they have a visual alternative!
Alt text (alternative text) is used on websites to describe the appearance and function of images on a page. One of the leading SEO tools, Moz, explains that alt text is a great way to help screen readers assist those who are visually impaired by describing the images. By ensuring that your images have clear, concise descriptions within the alt text, you’ll allow a wider audience to engage with your content. Alt text is also generally helpful for if an image doesn’t load, users can still understand what should be there visually. Harvard has a great guide on how to write alt text, which is great to help you get started.
Enhancing your website's user experience is effectively achieved by incorporating large buttons with ample surrounding space. This design strategy ensures that customers can navigate pages seamlessly, alleviating concerns about misclicking or confusion regarding navigation. Moreover, this approach not only fosters ease of use but also aids users encountering site difficulties, providing them with clear and accessible navigation options. Large and clear buttons will help your more visually impaired users navigate your website with ease.
Thoughtfully selecting colours for your website and marketing materials is essential to ensure easy readability and engagement for all users, including those who are colourblind or have eyesight issues. Frustration often arises for customers struggling to read content, so it's imperative to avoid blending colours between the background and text. By maintaining a clear contrast, you not only enhance accessibility but also expand the reach of your content to a broader audience.
How Do I Make My Shop Accessible?
Prioritising accessibility in your business is integral to enhancing the overall customer experience. By ensuring that your premises and websites are accessible, you broaden your opportunities to reach a more diverse audience. This commitment not only fosters inclusivity but also demonstrates a proactive approach to meeting the diverse needs of your customers, ultimately contributing to a more positive and expansive business impact. For example, since 2004 businesses have been legally required to ensure that they make the necessary changes to allow wheelchair users to access, including ramps, handrails and access doors.
Physical Ease of Access
The first step in your customer's journey is entering your premises, and if they’re unable to open the door due to the weight, or struggle with stairs, there is a chance they won’t want to enter at all. If your doors take a lot of force to open, you might need to consider replacing the hinges or adding a disabled access door, so that customers can open your doors by pressing a button. Fortunately, all new public buildings are built within disability regulations, however, if you’re unsure, start by taking the time to check that your premises are easy to get in and out of. Along with this, you might want to consider other helpful installations such as handrails for those unsteady on their feet or any uneven floors or steps. When your customers are inside your business premises, you’ll want them to feel comfortable in their ability to navigate without any safety or accessibility concerns.
By ensuring that your business lighting is set to an adequate level, you’ll increase the chances of a wide range of your customers feeling comfortable within your premises. Customers who are hard of hearing may require bright lighting to be able to communicate with people they are with, or members of staff by lip reading. For customers who have issues with their eyesight, they’ll also require adequate lighting to ensure they can safely navigate your premises. Alternatively, you may want to consider having lower lighting levels during certain hours for customers who may be more sensitive to bright lights.
The level of lighting you require will depend on several factors including how much natural light enters your business and the nature of the room, however, the HSE guidelines are designed to help ensure that you remain accessible to all.
Different types of lighting also have benefits towards your customer’s buying experience. Research from UKPOS shows that bright lighting in retail increases impulse purchases and low level lighting benefits the hospitality sector due to the relaxing atmosphere it creates helping customers feel more relaxed. By taking the time to ensure that your lighting reflects your premises and the mood you want your customers to feel whilst also remaining mindful of accessibility, you will be able to make sure all your customers feel comfortable!
Noise levels can also have an impact on customers, especially when you consider the range of neurodiverse conditions. If a customer is sensitive to noise, then it could lead to them avoiding your premises altogether. To combat this, many businesses have started to make access easier by dedicating quiet hours, where they also reduce lighting levels to help customers with sensory processing issues. Forbes found that some customers find shopping a stressful experience due to how busy shops can be, so by dedicating quiet hours, businesses can invite their customers to shop without feeling overwhelmed.
On the other hand, background noise can also have a positive impact on customer behaviour. PPL PRS highlights that music is great for creating an atmosphere within your business and can help lift the mood of your customers and team, increasing the chances of purchases being made. If your business chooses to play music to help background noise, by ensuring the volume is at an adequate level, you’re more likely to improve your customer’s experience.
By making sure that your business has plenty of clear signage customers can navigate without fear of getting lost or worrying in case of an emergency. When using signs, it’s crucial to make sure that they’re easy to read and that colours don’t clash. By considering the size of text and images, customers with poor eyesight can still navigate your business without stress. By having clear signage, all of your customers will be able to navigate your premises with ease, finding the products or rooms they need, allowing them to have a seamless experience interacting with your business.
Making sure your business is accessible to all of your customers both online and offline, not only boosts traffic to your business but also elevates your brand's reputation. Implementing minor adjustments can significantly enhance the overall customer experience, generating positive word-of-mouth referrals and paving the way for increased opportunities in the future.