OPINION: Nasty is good, accessible is better

Alex Varley
By Alex Varley | 10 May 2013
Media Access Australia chief executive Alex Varley.

Frank Chung ['Nice not-for-profits urged to get nasty as NDIS looms', AdNews 8 May 2013] was right to say that not-for-profit disability service providers need to get their marketing act together to compete with their commercially savvy for-profit competitors, but it takes more than marketing knowledge to effectively reach a disabled audience.

People with a disability, who make up almost 20% of Australians, use social media, websites and email just like the other 80%. They just require some special consideration.

Like any niche audience, disabled people have particular communications requirements that go beyond a cursory examination of demographics, psychographics and which media they follow. There is another factor that can make or break a campaign: accessibility. The most sweetly crafted advertising copy falls short when the intended target can’t read it, hear it or navigate the website it’s placed on.

No marketing strategy would be complete without social media and this comes with its own benefits and challenges for this emerging market. The accessibility of social media platforms is very varied and marketers need to be aware of the barriers sites like Facebook and Twitter place for disabled users.

However, there are some tricks of the trade that marketers can learn to ensure their social communications overcome these barriers wherever possible. For example, you might assume that an image will travel wider on Facebook, but without describing the image for non-sighted users, the reach is limited. Our free social media accessibility guide provides a lot of practical examples and solutions.

Most TV advertisers routinely caption their commercials but many fail to bring captioning along when videos move online. With one in six Australians being deaf or hearing impaired, this is no small problem. Captioning technology has advanced substantially in the past couple of years and captioning YouTube videos is now a simple and cost-effective process.

As DisabilityCare Australia (as the NDIS is now known) looms closer, there will be an inundation of companies looking to improve their websites for an enhanced customer experience. At a basic level, these accessibility features and tools needn’t change the fundamental look of the website, or really cost a lot of money to implement. For more complex websites, Australia’s only university course dedicated to web accessibility was designed to help web professionals gain that accessibility knowledge.

Media Access Australia is Australia’s only independent not-for-profit organisation devoted to increasing access to media for people with a disability.

Alex Varley
Chief Executive
Media Access Australia

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