We're All In This Together
A quarter of the world's population has some form of disability; however, in today's digital age, it is surprisingly difficult to find a website that is accessible for those with disabilities. Luckily, there are people who are working to change this disparity. That's where Roy Gefen comes in.
Gefen, the CMO of accessiBe, is making it his mission to solve web accessibility through AI. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares how companies can build their digital platforms and marketing campaigns to be accessible for people with disabilities.
A Little More About Roy
Roy Gefen is the CMO of accessiBe, an automated web accessibility solution for ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) compliance. With over 15 years of leadership experience, Roy has become an expert in developing and activating groundbreaking marketing and advertising strategies.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: You have really helped drive a powerhouse of a solutions business. How did you get here today and what set you up for success?
Answer: Well, first of all, I think timing and luck are always a great start. I think the product market fit was amazing. I think people are starting to understand that we're starting to know and learn that people with disabilities are about 20-25% of the global population. We don't really think about it that way; we think that people with disabilities are a niche, but we actually all will have some kind of disability along our lives, whether we break an arm or whether we start seeing not very well as we grow old. People with invisible disabilities and not only blind people, but you also have deaf, epileptic, ADHD, and people with cognitive disorders—if a website can give some accessibility accommodations that can help these people browse the web like they would want to actually personalize the accessibility preferences that would be great for them.
I think inclusion is starting to be a strong word that everyone is using; it's great to be an inclusive brand. I mean, you have to be diverse. You have to talk and sell to everyone. People with disabilities are a loyal community; they're big spenders, they have money, and they want to buy our products like everybody else. So, I think that the market fit and the timing.
Regulation is stepping forward—ADA compliance, WCAG 2.1 & 2.2, you have guidelines, you have regulations. You have countries where this is already a law, and you have countries where it's not yet a law, but it will be. Courts are going on the side of people with disabilities because we're all looking for equality, so that's only the logical thing to do. If you have a business or if you have a website—that's the same. It's a place where people need to come in and consume the content to hire your services or to buy your goods, and it has to be open for everyone.
Question: What would cause a website to be out of compliance? Where is the risk for a company?
Answer: First of all, let's talk about what that means to be accessible to everyone. Blind people or people with low vision need to use screen readers to understand the website's content, so they use screen readers, which is the most common thing. But then, if you think about deaf people, they need subtitles to understand me—they can't hear. And people that navigate without a mouse, only with the keyboard, need the website to be built in a certain way so they can navigate and not, you know, reach the add to cart and not be able to press the button because it wasn't labeled properly. So, if you think about the real world, if you have five people at the entrance of your store and you have four people walk through, and the fifth person would not be able to come in because he can't grab the door handle or he can't climb the step, you would probably do something about it because you can see it. The thing is, on the Internet, you can't see your visitors. You don't know who did not come in. So, the first thing you have to understand is that whatever you need to do in a real store, you need to do it on your website, so the website caters to everyone.
The risks are, first of all, brand perception. I mean, if I want to buy from your brand or from your website and I can't for whatever disability reason, I probably won't think very good things about you and your brand. Then there's the performance side. The conversion rates, time inside, and interactivity; you want everyone to be able to do whatever you want them to do in the first place. Another risk is the compliance risk. I mean, you don't want to be non-compliant. It once was very hard work to be compliant; making your website accessible was a kind of a difficult thing to do because you had to know about it, have a developer, and every change in your website had to be made accessible—it's a never-ending thing to do. So, we like to say that web accessibility is a journey. You never get it done. It's like SEO; it's like marketing; it's like everything. It doesn't stop; it has to go and evolve with your website.
The good news is AI helps you. It's simple to install, and then it starts working, and it grows with your website, understands new pages, new content, new visuals you upload, and it makes them accessible. The first solution, there's Access Widget. It doesn't change your source code; it only makes the session accessible. That's very easy to deploy. There's also a developer platform called Access Flow where you can really change your source code with that. So, you just streamline your code through the platform, and the platform tells you where you have errors and helps you fix them. You can fix them manually, but everything happens on the source code, so if you're a mid-enterprise level business, you probably have a developer team that would probably use Access Flow because they have one significant website or digital asset. If you're an agency or a web shop, you'd have multiple websites, and you can grow every website through Access Flow. You have to have a robust solution that's really good enough for most possibilities. And that actually made web accessibility accessible to everyone and every business because disability compliance should apply, and regulations apply to almost every website. So, now everyone should have the opportunity to make their website accessible. Making your website accessible today with what it costs and the resources it needs from you as a business owner is a no-brainer.
Question: If you're using an offshore website development to put something together and you don't have a digital agency helping you design, accessibility is not necessarily happening. How can we be more aware of that?
Answer: Most of the websites today are built by Zohos and micro-businesses and SMBs, and they are built on these CMS platforms, drag and drop platforms like Shopify and Wix, and so on. Most business owners and people that build websites on these big platforms think that they are already accessible, and they are not.
I can just also tell you that I bet our listeners are probably listening and saying, "well, how can I really know if my website is accessible and compliant?" There's an easy and simple solution for that too. Not only accessiBe has one—accessiBe's web accessibility checkers called Access Scan. You can just Google Access Scan or go to accessiBe's website. You can, for free, paste your URL, hit the button, and find out in like 15 seconds if your website is accessible, what the level of accessibility and compliance it has, what the issues are, and what you need to do.
Question: For other technology companies and software companies that are out there, what are you seeing that's helping drive education drive awareness and drive actual usage of software now?
Answer: Data is a substantial thing. You have to start there. You have to start understanding, like, "how does your product fit the market?" "What are our users saying about it?" But, if you talk marketing, start by trying everything that you can. Start at the bottom of the funnel activities; really try to see where traffic goes through and converts. The medium is the message, in a way. And it's great, but we're a new generation; we have multiple screens. So, I guess the answer is: to be data-driven. AV test everything, build funnels and understand different people.
Check Out The Podcast!
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