Trends, technology, and customer expectations are ever changing. And the reality is, if a company fails to keep up with these changes, business will suffer. In order to become successful and scalable, companies must not only understand where the future is headed – they must lead the way.

Digital accessibility is no exception. Digital accessibility means creating digital content that’s accessible to anyone. For example, someone who is visually impaired or who have lost the ability to use their hands can still accurately navigate your website and its content. The more that companies understand what digital accessibility is and the current requirements for it, the more potential customers they’ll attract, the more their business will grow.

Although 2019 is already off and running, it is not too late to get in front of the digital accessibility trends in order to create better access to users with disabilities, tap into an important market, and grow your business.

Here are the top 5 trends to get ahead of in 2019.

Wider Website Accessibility Enforcement

From 2017 to 2018, the number of web accessibility lawsuits nearly tripled. Courts are overwhelmingly ruling in favor of accessibility, and this growing trend is showing no sign of slowing in 2019.

Users have a right to access internet information no matter their ability. Companies that do not comply are increasingly being held liable and may have to pay hefty fines if sued.

If your business has not already, become familiar with  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. WGAG is a single shared standard for web content accessibility that articulates how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Webpages should be built with accessibility in mind, and if they are already built without it, 2019 is the time to make sure that they comply with these guidelines to mitigate legal risk.

Chatbots and Machine Learning

Thankfully, the newest technology makes it even easier to provide access to everyone. Although chatbots (sometimes called conversational bots) and machine learning are not new, they are growing increasingly popular and their influence is expanding even further in 2019.

The significant advancements in these technologies are everywhere, from the auto-suggestions provided by Google to the tag suggestions on Facebook. Chatbots and machine learning provide users convenience and efficiency so their use will continue to expand in 2019.

Machine learning allows users to receive instant responses and filter the appropriate contact for them. Users also save time with easier transitions between places. Chatbots create a more personalized experience online. They make purchases and transactions faster and more intuitive for users.

Both of these technologies drive much of the current innovation for creating a positive and efficient user experience. It is becoming increasingly common to see websites with pop-up windows and social media platforms frequently rely on them.

The challenge for businesses in 2019 is to make this technology accessible for all.

Although this technology has the potential to provide access to those with disabilities, it is important to realize that it does not necessarily meet everyone’s needs. Businesses will need to continue to make sure that the chatbots are compatible with assistive technology and intuitive for everyone.

Video Marketing Accessibility

More and more companies are turning to the power of video to create content that will impact the most people. Videos dominate social media and almost every content publishing platform. In fact, a survey found that 73% of users use YouTube on both their desktop and on their mobile devices, and 68% of U.S. adults use Facebook on a daily basis. When reaching their target audience, videos are impactful.

Unfortunately, there is a lag in making videos accessible to everyone. In order to ensure accessibility, captioning and transcripts are essential

Captioning and transcripts will allow your business to reach more people without creating additional content. Videos with closed captioning will boost SEO and rank higher on search sites. Videos that use closed captioning also enjoy more views and engagement on average than those that do not.

Get the most use out of your videos and reach even more people by providing closed captioning and transcripts.

Mobile Accessibility

Since 2012, the rise in the use of smartphones has created an explosive demand for mobile phone content. Although businesses have responded by creating mobile-friendly websites, this year will continue to see an increase in mobile accessibility for users with disabilities.

The ability to expand text up to 200% and appropriate color contrast ratio will mean that users who have low vision, color blindness or otherwise unable to read your website’s copy will be able to stay on your page. The ability for everyone to access your page through a mobile device is not only the right thing to do, but it will enable you to serve a larger customer base.

The mobile accessibility of your website will not only mean that more people will be able to reach your business, but it will also help boost your overall SEO ranking. Overall, a company that has an inclusive design on their mobile page will see a boost in their rankings and sales as they reach a wider customer base.

It is no surprise that content is mostly mobile now, but many businesses fail to take it into account in their accessibility. Do not miss out on valuable customers: 2019 is the year to increase mobile accessibility.

Microsoft Gets Accessible

The challenge with a lot of technology is that it was not initially designed with accessibility in mind. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is out to change that, and in 2019, we will see tremendous improvements in assistive technology capabilities.

Nadella’s son was born with Cerebral Palsy, which he describes as an eye-opening experience. Now, Microsoft has committed to accessibility first – not seeing it as an afterthought.

Some of their new innovative technologies include the app Seeing AI, which recognizes facial expressions, physical activities, reads documents and more for those with low vision. It was designed by Saquib Shaikh, a Microsoft Software engineer who is blind. They have also created an Xbox adaptive controller for users who are unable to manipulate traditional game controllers, readers to help people with Dyslexia, and they have tailored their interview process so they do not exclude people with Autism.

Although Microsoft is leading the way, other companies are not far behind. Google is aggressive in its push to create inclusive designs for both its software and hardware products. User Experience leads Jen Devins has stated that Google’s goal is to create a design that allows everyone to contribute without access barriers.

As these major technology companies continue to expand their inclusive goals, more users will be able to enjoy all the internet has to offer.

Lead the Way in 2019 with Inclusive Design

2019 promises to be an exciting year that will give more people the right to use technology no matter their needs. Any business that wants to truly ensure they are providing equal access to their digital content should embrace inclusive design. It’s just smart business.

Lead the way by making your website accessible today!

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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