I have a unique perspective to give on this subject. You see, I have recovered, thankfully, from being blind. The first four years of my college education were spent behind a machine that read aloud to me as I typed. So I’m certainly no stranger to the idea of accessibility. In this case, the Voice technology helped me play a bit on the same playing field as those without disabilities.
I’ve helped make six separate brand changes in my career. I led two of them, and I was part of the perimeter for the others. Before continuing, let me start by saying that I am not a designer. What I am is an unconventional marketer who understands things like visual aesthetics. Not because I know why certain colors work better with others, but because, even though I was lucky enough to have my vision restored through many procedures, certain colors and their combinations are still impossible must read for someone like me.
Now, as a marketer, I find it fascinating how many brands completely miss the mark when it comes to making things accessible for people with disabilities. They didn’t consider that, for some, certain colors make things hard to read or completely distorted for those who are color blind. They didn’t take into account the large part of their audience that is completely blind, because I was back in college.
The fact is, 6% of the US population deals with visual impairment. This represents approximately 14 million people. Of the 14 million, 11 million have uncorrected visual impairment. There is a direct link between vision correction and screen time. So, as screen time increases on mobile devices and our work moves more and more to computers, these numbers will increase significantly. Let it sink in a little. You demand that your customers interact with you digitally, which means when it comes to this part of the population, you (and they) are missing out on a huge opportunity.
So how do you build a brand that leverages everyone’s strengths?
1. Have speech accessibility (text-to-speech) on your website. You may be thinking, “Nobody uses that,” which is precisely the mindset you need to get out of. Many people struggle to see and use Voice as an essential way to help them consume your content.
2. Use accessible colors. Let’s be clear, this in no way means you have to be boring. Just keep in mind that in general: bright colors on a white background is a big no, and dark colors on dark colors is a big no. Take a look at this tool that you can use to test it.
Always use subtitles in your videos and audio content. It can help your search results (Google will penalize you if you don’t) and your searchability, and it’s a great way to consume video content on social media for those who never get their sound. More important than all that, it helps people who are hard of hearing.
3. Make sure your product UI/UX is also accessible. Nothing is worse than a product that you can’t use or don’t feel comfortable using on a regular basis.
4. Use sound to evoke emotion. For many of us who are, were, or are going blind, our senses are indeed heightened. Despite having very few formal lessons as a child (aside from “Mary Had a Little Lamb”), I found myself sitting down and – entirely on my own – excelling at the piano. Sound and music have become so important to me that to this day I am much more efficient at tasks when playing music. On top of that, I could hear sounds that most couldn’t hear. We’re talking about style, pure and simple. Now when videos, podcasts, or audiobooks are playing, I immediately close my eyes. And I know I’m not unique here. If you haven’t thought of this as a touchpoint of your brand that makes a difference, let me assure you: it most definitely matters. In a big way.
5. Leverage the art of voicemail. That’s right, I said art. Voice is a channel that people already trust and can relate to and as such there is untapped potential to be creative and fun. How about this… The next time you leave a virtual machine with a potential customer, give it the same energy you would give to a TikTok video or on social media. And try to use music to get your brand’s tone across. Believe me, those who can’t see know ESPN, T-Mobile and Twitter, all entirely through their brand sounds.
One last thing to keep in mind: the biggest companies in the world, the ones that control your media spend and how you present yourself as a brand to the public, care about these things. YouTube algorithms, Google algorithms, Twitter algorithms, LinkedIn algorithms, meta-algorithms, etc. – they all take this into account. That’s why almost all videos now have subtitles, and why Google even rewards you for it. Do yourself, your customers and your brand a favor: harness the power of sound.
Marketing Director at RedRoute, a Voice company. I am a marketer turned entrepreneur. Motto: always be unconventional.