Little things can make a big difference. That’s what we discovered during our January Virtual Roundtable entitled: “Business Language Accessibility: benefits and techniques”. This time we invited two industry guests to our Roundtable panel to discuss the difference an accessible communications mindset can have on your brand and in broadening your commercial reach.
Our co-host, Niamh Kelly, began the Roundtable by explaining what we mean when we talk about “accessible” and “inclusive” communications.
“Accessible language is about asking ourselves, are we communicating in a way that the majority of people can understand? One thing that we do, especially if English is your first language, is that we communicate at a level that we’re able to understand. But too often we forget about the level of our customers and potential customers – is their level of comprehension the same as ours? People with dyslexia or for whom English isn’t their first language, for example. This is important for companies to consider because complexity in communication creates barriers to doing business.”
Carrie Clewes, an equality and disability rights lawyer with Chattertons Solicitors, continued by giving examples of how standard non-inclusive communication can be challenging for some customers.
“Accessibility does encompass cognitive challenges and lower language skills, but it also includes physical disabilities like blindness, deafness, and issues with dexterity. All of this impacts how well businesses can connect with customers. For instance, many of my clients often can’t get beyond a website’s cookie banner. If the website doesn’t have enough colour differentiation between sections, or if it’s incompatible with common screen-reading technologies, or if you can’t use the tab button to move around the site then it’s not likely the customer will get the information they’re looking for. If they can’t see or access the ‘contact us’ area, then they can’t even ask for help. And that means a customer will be dissatisfied because they won’t get the product or service they’re looking for, and the business will lose a sale without even knowing it.”
It’s one thing to understand that modern devices and non-inclusive communications create barriers for customers, but it’s another thing to be willing to do something about it. Paul Ulett, founder of Lasting Legacy Planning, shared the experience of when he realised that a potential client that he was just about to make a PowerPoint presentation to over a Zoom call was blind.
“I expected the representatives on the call would have full sight – I never even considered it could be otherwise! But the chap who appeared on the screen that I was to make my presentation to was blind. My immediate reaction was: “How is this going to work?! How am I going to present this to somebody that’s blind?” So I was upfront. I said to him: “Look, I wasn’t expecting you on the call today but I’m really grateful that you’re here. The presentation we have is a visual presentation on PowerPoint. I understand that you can’t see so, if it’s OK with you, what I’d like to do is talk you through every slide, describe what’s on it, and read all of the words aloud.”
So we ran the presentation. It ended up running for about maybe 12 or 15 minutes longer than it usually would. And at the end of the presentation, he said that he’d been on several other video calls over the last 18 months during the pandemic, and pretty much 100% of the time he’d been ignored because people didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know how to approach the subject of his blindness so they ignored him. He said he was really appreciative of what I’d done. He said: “You’ve done something really powerful. I was able to visualise what was on the slide, so in my mind I could see what everybody else could see with their eyes.”
This was a life-changing moment for Paul, and that event influenced a number of major changes in how he ran his own businesses. (No spoilers here! Watch the Roundtable recording on-demand to find out what Paul did next! See link below.)
As the Roundtable drew to a close, the panel agreed about the importance of accessibility in business communications, but highlighted a common challenge: how do you convince the decision-makers of a company to make inclusion and accessibility a natural part of their business processes? Co-host Trevor Fenton proposed a strategy.
“One thing that occurs to me is that accessibility is actually the same as approachability. If you think about it from a user-experience point of view, it’s not just about: “Can I access this?”, it’s more about: “Is this business open to me? Are they looking out for me? Are they welcoming to me?” Think about how powerful that is. If you say to your board of directors that this approach will connect with an underserved market, that is, a segment of the market that feels they are not being looked out for properly, who think that most businesses aren’t open or welcoming to them, then maybe the broadened market reach approach is how you make the case.”
More information about this Roundtable here:
Watch this Roundtable on-demand here:
Language accessibility resources mentioned in this Roundtable:
Accessibility app: Stark https://www.getstark.co/
UK Guidance: “Making your service accessible: an introduction”
Niamh Kelly, Tigim https://www.tigim.co/
Trevor Fenton, Plain English Law https://plainenglish.law/
Carrie Clewes, Chattertons Solicitors https://www.chattertons.com/
Paul Ulett, Lasting Legacy Planning https://lastinglegacyplanning.com/