Digital accessibility

The Necessity of Digital Accessibility in the Pandemic Era

It is certainly an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic changed everyday life and business for many people around the world. One shift that businesses and all types of organizations had to make quickly—or perhaps might still need to complete—is ensuring that their online platforms and digital assets are easy to use, simple to navigate, and work reliably.

This shift has highlighted the need for digital accessibility. People with hearing loss need particular accommodations to assist them, and that includes when using websites. Now, both during the pandemic and post-pandemic, it is even more important than ever before to consider those with disabilities or different abilities. In the pandemic era we live in, digital accessibility is essential.

During the pandemic, it became obvious to everyone how frustrating it is when digital assets do not work properly. In the height of widespread lockdowns, problems like websites or apps that did not work properly could mean the difference between being able to order meals, submit grocery orders, complete your work or schoolwork, keep in touch with friends and family, and much more. While many people became more aware of these problems during the pandemic, these issues have been problematic for those with disabilities for a much longer time.

Ensuring that online content is accessible means making sure that all people can read and understand the content—while taking into account any disabilities, different abilities, or assistive technologies they may have. These disabilities may include impaired vision, impaired hearing or deafness, motor difficulties, learning disabilities, or cognitive impairments.

People with disabilities who may have formerly relied more heavily on in-person interactions (in stores and banks, for example), now find themselves forced to navigate an online world that is not always designed with their different abilities in mind. Companies and organizations must take steps to ensure that all online content is accessible. A few simple steps toward accessibility include:

  • Ensuring websites and emails are properly displayed and easily navigable on a mobile device
  • Making certain that websites and emails can be easily navigated with a keyboard only
  • Creating PDF documents that can be read by screen readers
  • Avoiding text with poor color contrast

During and post-pandemic, these shifts toward accessibility can make a big difference for all people with disabilities. Making sure that online content can be consumed and understood by all people also complies with accessibility laws.

While email was a commonly used form of communication before the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly popular—even vital—to companies during the pandemic as they have been unable to rely on physical interaction. Many companies used email to convey their business continuity plans and health safety standards to consumers during the pandemic. However, a recent study found that among financial services firms, only 25 percent were testing accessibility in their software development process. This leaves room for incredible improvement in this sector when it comes to accessibility. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital content and communication, and it continues to showcase the need for accessibility. To learn more about how you can ensure that your digital content and online services are accessible, we encourage you to contact us today at AudiologyPlus.

Important Announcements from Google and Yelp

Important Announcements from Google and Yelp – Coronavirus and Your Business

Google and Yelp are actively adapting their services to better support businesses during this difficult time. If you have visited Google My Business or your business’s Yelp page, you may have noticed some changes but may not understand why things have changed. We’ve included a summary of these important announcements below:
Google published a new help page on Friday, April 3, 2020, titled “Limited Google My Business functionality due to COVID-19” to address their services that businesses rely on (like reviews and business listings) and their rapid reorganization of priorities.
At this time, Google has determined that they will disable:

  • Reviews, and this includes new reviews and the ability to reply to reviews
  • The ability to post new Question and Answer content

Google chose to disable reviews because their plan is to “prioritize critical services.” Google explains: “We are currently focusing on the quality and reliability of information on Google Search and Maps, ensuring that users and business owners have access to essential features like whether the business is open and/or has special hours.”
And their priorities are also focused on additional support to the healthcare space. Any new listings in healthcare, as well as new claims for existing listings, will be subject to manual review; other new business listings and verifications may be delayed as health-related listings are prioritized.
Read Google’s post in its entirety.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman published a blog post on Friday, April 3, 2020, as well, to report details on Yelp’s crisis response and discuss how their efforts are supporting businesses. These new applications will help businesses to better communicate their available services to their local community. These offerings include:

  • “Contact-free” delivery options that are available in the Yelp app, via a partnership with GrubHub, which will start next week.
  • A new feature that lets restaurants specify that they are open but only for pick-up and delivery.
  • The ability to add a banner alert to the top of your Yelp profile to announce any special circumstances. Yelp has also released tools so businesses can mark themselves as temporarily closed.
  • A showcase of virtual services, like online classes and telehealth capabilities.

In addition to new features, Yelp also suspended any ad fees for small businesses and detailed a new set of special review content guidelines, including “zero tolerance for any claims in reviews of contracting COVID-19 from a business or its employees, or negative reviews about a business being closed during what would be their regular open hours in normal circumstances.”
Yelp didn’t offer a date for when these features will be available, but you can expect these updates to be ready very soon. Read Yelp’s blog post in its entirety.
These added services should help businesses better communicate with their customers and the community. If you have any questions or need to reach out to AudiologyPlus, please feel free to contact us.