Current Global, Magna & IPG study urges brands to up accessibility of content for differently abled, releases guidelines on it with PRCA

New York, NY (April 28, 2021) – Differently abled individuals, 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.”

“Content is published every day that’s inaccessible to many, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said George Coleman, Co-CEO of Current Global. 

“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,” he added.

Study participants had visual, hearing, cognitive, or speech challenges. The findings show that differently abled people consume many forms of media, especially video, yet have trouble accessing content comfortably and with ease, even when using assistive tools. Understanding the lived experiences of differently abled people clearly shows assistive tools don’t always work, with the content itself being half the problem. 

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.

The study also demonstrates that Social media platforms are comparatively difficult to use: No matter the challenge, 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.

    “It’s astounding how much work still needs to be done to make communications accessible to people with disabilities,” said Kara Manatt, SVP, Intelligence Solutions, MAGNA. “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.”

    New Guidelines Designed to Make Communications Accessible to All

    Current Global worked with the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA) to publish the PRCA’s Accessible Communications Guidelines, also in partnership with the PR Council. The free guidelines detail the tools available to agencies and in-house teams and the standards and processes they should apply to make their content as inclusive as possible.

    “As professional communicators, it is incumbent on us to make communications inclusive for people of all abilities so we can reach every member of society,” said Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA and Chief Executive, ICCO. “The technology and tools to help us do this are readily available, so the key priority is to update the way we work to adhere to best practices laid out in the guidelines.”

    To supplement the research and guidelines, Current Global has created a website to inspire, inform, and instigate change across the industry. The site will feature relevant research, news, best practices, cases studies, and an accessibility commitment that organizations can sign to show their intent to develop, curate or publish communications that will meet the highest accessibility standards.