Making accessibility a priority
Accessibility means all individuals, including those with disabilities, have the same level of access to information. Federal agencies including those that administer Medicaid and Medicare programs are required to follow accessibility guidelines set out by federal law, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which governs technology accessibility. Common communications tools that should be reviewed for accessibility include websites, training tools, call centers and print materials.
It is important that accessibility is studied and addressed when deciding how to truly create a customer-friendly experience. Communications tools that aren’t usable by all individuals can lead to customer frustration and lost business.
What does accessible information mean?
In addition to Section 508, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) Communications and Marketing Guidelines (MCMG) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3c) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) are two sources for guidelines related to accessibility. WCAG 2.0 relates to websites and other technology tools such as apps.
The W3C defines accessibility as people being able to perceive, understand, navigate, contribute to and interact with the Web. Websites that are accessible have options for those with any disability to use the site. Disabilities could be auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech related or visual. People accessing the site may be using assistive devices use as screen readers or voice recognition software of using other adaptive strategies. An accessible website is robust, properly coded and can be used across a variety of devices.
For other communication tools such as print pieces, availability of alternative formats such as Braille and consideration for how color and text size impacts content access are important. Transcripts or close captioning are needed for video or other moving content.
How is accessibility achieved?
Ideally, every communications tool would be accessible all the time, but accessibility means growing and changing as technology and awareness improves. A good first step is to meet base requitements defined in federal law and then building on those with the goal of achieving full accessibility. For example, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines include three levels of accessibility (A, AA, and AAA). Meeting level A and AA is a good starting place.
Success means every customer has a positive experience when interacting with communications tools which means reduced customer service volume related to questions about content, fewer accessibility issues identified during reviews and audits, and an increase in customer satisfaction.