Why Web Accessibility Matters, From A Customer Support Veteran’s Perspective
Over the course of my customer support career, I had the pleasure of chatting with customers who provided valuable feedback about the products and services they used. Some moments were of pure joy. And then, there were moments where they expressed complete dissatisfaction with how things operated.
The thing about customer support is (in my experience), the department is often overlooked by companies. I won’t go into detail on the internal politics that were involved in terms of the treatment with other customer support representatives. What I can provide in the article is this - we’re on the front lines in receiving feedback from our customers. We’re the ones who gather the info and relay this information over to the product, marketing, and engineering teams.
As an example, I remember helping a customer who had low vision and was having trouble navigating on the website since she wanted to purchase a subscription. They weren’t sure of the differences between the plans. The customer noted that she was having trouble seeing the font since it appeared too light. When I pulled up the page, I was able to see why. After explaining the differences in the plans, she decided that it was not worth the investment since she felt it was too much trouble navigating on the website due to how poorly the layout was designed.
I’ve had my fair share in encountering members from other departments who were too concerned about making the websites look flashy and trendy. In their minds, the designs are pixel perfect. What they failed to realize is that by focusing on the aesthetics portion of their designs, you’re losing out the other part of the customer base - the ones with physical & mental disabilities & socio-economic restrictions. Furthermore, companies can be sued if their websites are not web accessible compliant. As an example, Beyoncé was sued over her website for violating the Americans with Disabilities act.
To quote Aaron Gustafson in the foreword from the book A Web For Everyone by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery:
“A commitment to universal accessibility is the highest form of customer service.”
Web accessibility is more than just making a design responsive and call it a day. It’s about helping your potential and current customers feel welcome, without any barriers stopping them from accessing your products & services. If we are to listen to their feedback and take their concerns seriously, companies would fare better and cater to the underrepresented population.
I don’t consider myself an expert in web accessibility. It’s an area I’m finding myself learning more about as I dive deeper into web development. In doing so, it became a personal mission that would require me to take a few steps back and reassess how I plan to design my websites in the future. And by personal, I attribute this to two events in my life where I knew the importance of accessibility - my mother being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and my ocular hypertension diagnosis. Every now and then, I would see my mom struggle using certain websites & apps whenever she wants to read something. Likewise, with me, I find myself increasing the contrast on fonts and making the text bigger than normal as my left eye is more blurry than my right eye.
I’m constantly learning what it takes to make websites accessible, so if you have any resources that you would like to share, let me know in the comments below.