Accessibility Beyond the Web: Why Every Brand Asset Matters

As a digital technical solutions company, the term “accessibility” (A11Y) usually conjures images of websites and app interfaces designed for those with disabilities. However, a recent event served as a poignant reminder that accessibility (A11Y)  extends far beyond the digital realm, and should be considered for all brand assets from the largest to the (seemingly) smallest. I was recently privileged to attend a beautifully orchestrated fund raising event where the vast majority of attendees were over 50. The event  included artistically designed name tags that were just as lovely as the setting around us and were consistent with the brand’s documented style guide for assets. But while visually stunning and consistent with asset guidelines, these name tags posed a significant challenge for those with visual impairments, rendering them nearly unreadable. From a normal conversational distance, the font was too small for older eyes to read, the contrast of the font color against the background would have been a challenge for anyone with compromised vision or color blindness and the logo would have appeared as a ‘splat’.  It caused me to wonder: how many names were forgotten and/or people not recognized simply because someone could not read the name tag, and the possible snowball effect this could have on raising additional funds?  It seems like such a little thing – but is it? This incident underscores the vital importance of ensuring that all brand assets, both digital and physical, major and minor, are not only brand consistent but also accessible to everyone. And since The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 were updated just yesterday, it seems like the perfect time to dive into how these standards can and should be carried across to assets that have a physical production, as well.

Who Should Care About Accessibility (A11Y)?

The short answer? Everyone. Whether you’re a business owner, designer, marketer, or part of a non-profit organization, accessibility (A11Y) should be at the forefront of your considerations. Users that benefit from A11Y are far more extensive than just those with physical disabilities. For example,  entities like non-profits where older donors might be a significant demographic, ensuring clear and accessible brand assets from the website, social platforms, and physical creative assets can make the difference between a successful campaign and a missed opportunity. After all, brand management extends beyond logos. Every touchpoint in both the digital and physical should be considered. From logos, to email signatures, to name tags to seating charts, all creative assets should embody both brand consistency and accessibility.

The Challenge of Recognizing Accessibility Issues

For many, recognizing accessibility issues isn’t second nature. It’s not due to negligence but often a simple lack of awareness. Unless one faces these challenges personally or sees a loved one struggle, the nuances of accessibility can easily go unnoticed. So the very first action is user testing from different perspectives. Whether conducted formally or informally, it is the first step in designing brand assets that communicate the brand’s message to all, not just a majority.

The Balance of Brand Consistency and Accessibility

But what do you do if the identified issues relate to your organization’s established and documented style guide (that is, the brand’s “look”)?  Brand reputation is a culmination of consistent messaging, visuals, and experiences. It’s a delicate balance, especially when introducing the variable of accessibility (A11Y). As technology evolves and new challenges emerge, ensuring compliance with standards like WCAG 2.1 AA becomes an ongoing effort. So one must understand that A11Y remediation is not a one-time task but a continuous journey of adaptation and improvement.

That said, when faced with an accessibility challenge, the first step is to evaluate its nature. Can it be addressed within the current brand guidelines? Many times simple adjustments such as increasing font size or enhancing contrast can make a world of difference. However, when deeper issues arise, consider a dedicated remediation team. Their role is to pinpoint the problems and propose solutions that align with both the brand’s identity and accessibility standards. The remediation team will suggest compliant design options and technical implementation solutions to bring the project to the desired compliance level.

Conclusion

In the realm of branding, every detail matters. From the color palette to the typography, each element plays a role in conveying a brand’s message and moving your users through the touchpoints and towards the goals you have for them. It’s crucial to remember that the assets encountered along the way are not just for aesthetics; they serve a functional purpose – to drive and further support your business goals. 

If you’re looking to review your brand assets and ensure they meet the desired standard of accessibility, consider consulting with experts in the field. At Technology Project Solutions (TPS), we’re committed to helping brands strike the perfect balance between aesthetic appeal and accessibility. Reach out to us today to learn more.