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Why Digital Accessibility Matters for Marketing Websites

By Ross Cosner | February 15, 2023 | 0 Comments

MarketingCustomer ExperienceDigital Marketing Strategy and Execution

What is Digital Accessibility?

Digital accessibility is the practice of identifying and remediating issues in digital products (e.g., websites, mobile apps) that make use more difficult for people with disabilities. In simpler terms, digital accessibility makes sure digital products are accessible to and usable by everyone. While there are specific definitions based on legislation (i.e., the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA) or published standards (e.g., the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG), the broadest view as eloquently outlined by Search Engine Journal accounts for auditory, cognitive, physical, and neurological considerations. Even within the same category, issues can differ.

For example, severe vision impairment might warrant a screen reading device, which relies on site metadata to interpret and audibly explain a graph or a chart. Color blindness on the other hand, may not warrant a screen reading device, but does make everyday activities like content consumption difficult if foreground and background color contrasts are not distinct enough to make words legible. The practice should account for nuances across a number of form-factors and interaction states:

  • Device: mobile phone, tablet, desktop computer
  • User Interface: mouse/keyboard, touch screen, voice
  • Browser: desktop and mobile (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera)
  • Documents: office documents, presentations, or PDF files
  • Situational: limited internet connectivity

Digital accessibility helps create a consistent approach for all relevant audiences across the channels they use. A cornerstone of standards for digital accessibility is the World Wide Web Consortiums’ (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The WAI’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the de facto global standard for measuring digital accessibility of websites and documents. In addition, the WAI Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite (ARIA) helps make dynamic content and advanced user interface controls developed with HTML, JavaScript and related technologies, accessible.


Why Does It Matter for Marketing Leaders?

There are several compelling reasons for marketers to pursue improved digital accessibility:

  • User Experience: Improving customer facing experiences for affected users because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it can increase your total addressable market
  • Regulatory: Complying with regulatory requirements and therefore mitigating the risk of private legal action (in the U.S.)
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): Represents a tangible example of the company’s efforts that align with internal DEI initiatives
  • SEO: Overlapping benefits between accessibility best practices and organic search visibility (HTML tags, sitemaps, etc.)

There are several levels of conformance within the WCAG; Level A (the bare minimum), Level AA (what most organizations target), and Level AAA (the highest level and most difficult to maintain). According to the Bureau of Internet Accessibility, conformance is immensely valuable as courts recognize WCAG as an independent standard, and organizations that follow WCAG are well positioned to prove compliance with the ADA and other accessibility laws. Considerations can differ based on industry, distribution model, and target customer segment (e.g., B2C vs. B2B).

Accessibility and inclusive design should be integrated into design/creative, marketing campaigns, and channel management. The practice works best when executed as both a ‘point in time’ audit and integrated into your operational activities. But products change, updates are introduced with new features or bug fixes, and the reality is that digital marketers face a moving target. In an ideal world with no limits to time, cost, or resources, all digital accessibility gaps would be resolved. However, a more realistic outcome marketing leaders should pursue is a digital accessibility agenda that balances practical constraints with a minimum standard.


Below is a list of helpful resources and tools on digital accessibility.

Standards & Guidelines

Web content
Web applications
Paged documents
Office documents
 ISO/IEC 29500 (2015),  ECMA-376 (2016),  OASIS ODF 1.3
Sign language
Video captioning
Large/resizable text
 UKAAF (2020) and various
 EPUB Media Overlays 3.2 (2019),  W3C TTML (2018),  W3C SMIL 3.0 (2008)
Cognitively accessible content
 EasyRead GOV.UK

Platform-Specific Guidelines

Big tech companies that offer their own devices or operating systems have created in-depth material to support the design and development of accessible applications within their ecosystems.





Information on enterprise-level vendors supporting a broad set of digital accessibility efforts can be found in Gartner’s Market Guide for Digital Accessibility (subscription required). There are also several free tools that offer testing and validation of  website accessibility:

Additional Resources

The following resources require a Gartner subscription.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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