accessibility: why pr pros should care

In the world of public relations, there’s never enough content real estate. Think about it for a second. Social media has limited word count, many digital ads have word restrictions, and print publications almost never have enough real estate to include all the details clients desire to see featured. But with the arrival of March I’ve been wondering, should client desires come second to user experience?

Now with that statement, half of you are screaming, “Client wants trump everything!” The other half are thinking, “I’m sure there’s a happy balance between both. Happy users yield happy clients.” And admittedly, I tend to agree with the latter. But this March, during Disability Awareness Month, it seems appropriate to remind public relations professionals the importance of accessibility – regardless of available real estate.

Full disclosure for anyone who may not know, I’m a single parent to a visually impaired son. I thought I had a good handle on his visual limitations and how they affect his day-to-day life, but I was recently enlightened all over again about disabilities, visual and beyond. A recent conversation with experts in the disability world left me amazed at the things I didn’t know I didn’t know as someone who’s constantly managing content across print and digital, with hopes of garnering engagement. From that conversation came the following three reminders during Disability Awareness Month:

If you don’t live with a disability, it will likely be difficult to gauge what is accessible.

One of the best suggestions that I received from the experts I mentioned above was the creation of an accessibility test group. PR pros can assume their deliverable is accessible and useful to the disabled community, or they can take an extra step by working alongside a test group of disabled stakeholders to ensure ease of use for all ability levels. While this does add a timely step of review into the production process, it’s a great way to gain new advocates, and ultimately to enhance users experience(s) with your brand.

Be forthcoming about assistive resources.

Shame on me for not being aware of this reminder given my personal note above, but PR professionals should always have assistive resources available upon request. These assistive resources could include audio transcriptions, closed-captioning on videos, and/or large print files available in a limited supply. Again, these considerations take time, and sometimes have costs associated with them, but they’re very small ways to be inclusive.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Leading into Disability Awareness Month, I’ve been working closely with Fishers Advisory Committee on Disability. Every step of the way I not only find myself learning things I didn’t know I didn’t know, but I’ve also felt safe to ask questions and gain perspectives that I quite frankly didn’t have. Which brings me to my last reminder, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many resources, experts, and individuals willing to share their stories and lend a hand.

This March, Fishers has countless ways to get involved, and we’re not alone. Many communities have initiatives specifically aimed at raising awareness around accessibility and inclusion. I’d encourage you to get involved, and as PR pros, to determine how you can best meet client needs while achieving an exceptional user experience for all ages and ability levels.

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