Why should businesses, governments, educators, companies and not-for-profits make their content, products or services accessible? I could write a persuasive article listing all the awesome reasons that accessibility should be a priority (social inclusion, education, human rights, wider audience, social equality… Need we go on?), but those arguments have been made again and again, but we’re still facing barriers to full accessibility in New Zealand.
Able provides captioning and audio description services, and we work with a fantastic range of businesses and organisations who choose to make their content accessible. So why is there so much content on New Zealand screens that does not carry captions or audio description?
There are three common reasons I hear from businesses on why they don’t make their content accessible: the numbers don’t add up; they don’t have the technology; it’s too complicated. I’m going to tell you why these are wrong and why it makes sense to make your content accessible.
The numbers do add up. Businesses can mistakenly believe that accessibility services like captioning and audio description are for a niche audience and it doesn’t make to spend money on reaching a small market. Well, firstly, that niche audience is actually really important, and we know that social inclusion leads to better outcomes for everyone.
But we also now know that accessibility actually helps a wide range of people. Captioning, for instance, can be used by anyone that can’t hear – for any reason – those who are Deaf, hard of hearing, in a noisy environment, learning English.
21% of New Zealanders use captions when watching television, and 47% of Asian New Zealanders use captions.
We also know that a whopping 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. People are scrolling through their social media feeds in workplaces, on public transport, walking down the street, and they are not listening to the audio. Captions on your video will make sure your message gets across to anyone who doesn’t have the sound up or can’t hear the video.
The technology is available. We often hear from businesses and platforms that they don’t have accessible content because they don’t have the technology. So, why don’t businesses have the technology? Because they haven’t invested in it. Companies that have invested in accessibility technology haven’t just ticked the box – they have prioritised it. Netflix has 100% captioning and is working towards increased audio description. Facebook and YouTube have captioning. Our very own NZ On Screen has captioning.
Businesses need to build their services to be accessible from the start. Media platforms are expensive to bolt new solutions on to, so it’s better to add accessibility features during the launch of a service or during a major upgrade. There are also lots of free services that can help you make your content accessible, like YouTube and Facebook’s captioning functionality.
Accessibility can be simple. Making your content accessible can seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Build accessibility into your workflow and use a third-party provider like Able – a one-stop shop that can take care of the process for you. Get in touch if you’d like to talk!
Accessibility makes sense for businesses. It opens your product, content or service up to a wider audience. It ensures more people are engaging with your message, and that is a good investment.
Wendy Youens, Chief Executive