Current Global with the Public Relations & Communications Association Release Industry Guidelines
New York, NY – April 21, 2021 – People with disabilities, 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.”
With a collective global buying power of $8 trillion, this community represents a significant audience for marketers to exclude by default or design:
- 285 million people are visually impaired; 39 million are blind and 82 percent of all blind people are age 50+.
- 466 million people have disabling hearing loss; by 2050, that number will rise to over 900 million.
- Between 1-3% of the population has an intellectual disability, as many as 200 million people; intellectual disability is significantly more common in low-income countries – about 16 in every 1,000 people.
- About 18.5 million people have a speech, voice, or language disorder.
“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. The agency made an industry-first commitment in December 2020 that every piece of communication developed, curated or published on behalf of the firm and its clients will meet the highest accessibility standards. “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 disabilities. The findings show that people with all types of disabilities consume many forms of media, yet have trouble accessing content comfortably and with ease, even when using assistive tools. Understanding the lived experiences of people with disabilities clearly shows assistive tools don’t always work, with the content itself being half the problem. In addition, the study found that accessibility in communications has a direct impact on how people feel about a brand.
- People with disabilities are regularly consuming all forms of content weekly or more often, particularly visual content (98%): Social media, TV shows and short video clips are favored by survey participants (89%, 86%, and 80% respectively).
- Social media platforms are comparatively difficult to use: No matter the type of disability, 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.
- Assistive tools are a flawed experience: 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.
- Lack of accessibility has become a normalized experience: On the surface, people think brands are doing a good job (40%), but standards are low to begin with; the study found that people with disabilities were not sure what changes companies should make.
- Inaccessible communications cause negative emotions and can have serious repercussions for brands: 81% reported a negative emotional response when a brand’s communication was inaccessible, with 38% also feeling frustrated. When brands are accessible, they reap a host of benefits, with 60% taking a positive brand action and 81% having a positive emotional response and feeling connected to the brand.
“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.”
The full “Digital Accessibility: The Necessity of Inclusion” study, which queried over 800 people from the United States and United Kingdom, can be found below.
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 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.
About Current Global:
Current Global is part of IPG’s (NYSE: IPG) DXTRA unit and its portfolio of public relations and communications firms. A midsized global agency with a full-service offering, our team of inquisitive, insightful, and imaginative people mix scientific rigor with creativity to get to the very core of how communications can drive outcomes. Our heritage is a deep understanding of earned media, but we are equally adept at developing integrated campaigns that encompass paid, owned, and social. Discover how we help clients Own the Moment at www.currentglobal.com.
MAGNA is the leading global media investment and intelligence company. Our trusted insights, proprietary trials offerings, industry-leading negotiation and unparalleled consultative solutions deliver an actionable marketplace advantage for our clients and subscribers. We are a team of experts driven by results, integrity, and inquisitiveness. We operate across five key competencies, supporting clients and cross-functional teams through partnership, education, accountability, connectivity, and enablement. For more information, please visit our website: https://www-wp-stage.magnaglobal.com/ and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.
About IPG Media Lab:
Part of the Interpublic network, the IPG Media Lab identifies and researches innovations and trends that will change the media landscape and how brands engage with their audiences. Since 2006, the Lab has worked with our clients and with industry partners who can help them best adapt to disruptive change. Its expertise, resources and consulting services also help to inform the learnings, strategies, and business outcomes of all Interpublic agencies. For more information, please visit www.ipglab.com or follow @ipglab.
Director, Global Corporate Communications