Understanding Digital Inclusion for Your IR Website

Accessibility is ever-evolving but an essential aspect of digital inclusion that is important for every company to consider as they develop their web presence.

As investor relations continue to experience a seismic shift to virtual, it is especially crucial for your IR website to have digital inclusion and compliance. Q4’s Product Marketing Manager, Alex Wentzell, sat down with industry experts to review accessibility laws and regulations and how they fit into IR (or the other way around, as you’ll see). During this interview, the speakers gave information and tips to stay compliant and go above and beyond for the inclusion of diverse online audiences across the capital markets.

Joining Alex in this product spotlight, we welcomed a diverse panel of experts, starting with Jay Vaidya, Team Lead, Client Activations at Q4, who has been with the company for over seven years and has worked on some of our client’s most innovative websites. He is also the founding member of Q4’s Accessibility Taskforce. We also welcomed Karen Hawkins, Head of Accessible UX Design at eSSENTIAL Accessibility. Karen is an Industrial Engineer and Certified Accessibility Professional with a decade of experience working on UX projects with leading brands. eSSENTIAL Accessibility combines technology, processes, people, and legal expertise to make your digital assets accessible—and keep them that way. Not only do they help businesses stay compliant and remain as accessible as possible, but they work closely with Q4 to ensure we do the same for our clients. 

The Importance of Digital Inclusion

Accessibility focuses on ensuring there are no barriers to providing an equivalent user experience to all, regardless of ability or the way people access technology. There are many types of disabilities that can affect users–visual, auditory, motor, cognitive, and speech–and due to this vast range, visitors can encounter several barriers while accessing your website. The goal is to make your website’s user experience inclusive and straightforward, not only because it’s the law but because you want everyone to access the tools and services you provide, challenge-free.

What is the significance of accessibility specifically for investor relations? Alex explained that your IR website is the most trusted source of information for investors, and their experience navigating it is vital to your business relationship. This is especially true today due to the aforementioned shift to virtual engagement accelerated by the pandemic. While speaking in person can certainly have its challenges–especially for those with disabilities–it is your responsibility as a business to ensure the transition to virtual is as smooth and accessible as possible for everyone. Because there are currently 1.3 billion people living with disabilities, we must assume that a portion of our users is among that population. 

Next, we heard from Karen, as she explained that accessibility within the context of digital properties (and all other aspects) impacts actual people’s lives—since 20% of all North American adults have a disability, making them the largest minority group in North America. She offered a set of guidelines to consider and reviewed how compliance works.

Digital Inclusion Guidelines

The laws and regulations often differ between jurisdictions, but the most widely known are the ADA (American with Disabilities Act), the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act), and EN 301 549: The European Standard for Digital Accessibility. Although they vary in some aspects, the main commonality is that they all point to international technical standards for digital accessibility called WCAG (the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), which is a set of guidelines for the design and development of digital platforms to bring uniformity across the web. Regardless of where you are in the world, your local laws will always point to this set of guidelines.

Karen shared results from a survey conducted by WebAIM, in which 1 million people were asked about the most common accessibility failures (or barriers) they experienced, and the results were as follows:

  1. Low contrast text
  2. Missing alt text
  3. Missing form labels
  4. Empty links
  5. Missing document language
  6. Empty buttons

In fact, 97.7% of all errors detected fall into these categories. She explains that it’s your responsibility to incorporate accessibility thinking and execution into every aspect of your workflows and to constantly monitor your website and digital properties for potential issues. But, also reminds us that due to changing content, evolving standards, differentiation between groups of disabilities within the population, etc., we will never be 100% accessible–but we should always try to strive to conform.

Q4’s Approach and Next Steps

Lastly, Jay spoke about Q4’s approach and next steps for accessibility for our clients. He recommends building your foundation on an accessible website template, proactively monitoring and maintaining your accessible website with the Q4 and eSSENTIAL partnership, working with your main Q4 point of contact (sales contact or Investor Relations Lead) on your long-term remediation strategy, and lastly, getting started with the resources from today’s session.

For more information, reach out to us or watch the full webinar here.

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