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Digital Accessibility

Digital Holidays 2023

It's that time of year: the time where gift buying, party planning, and get-togethers become a race through December. That's right, it is the holiday season. 

Coming off a pandemic that impacted people's ability to shop and congregate in person, we are starting to see a return to the pre-pandemic levels of shopping and spending. Deloitte is currently estimating that during the 2023 holiday season, we will actually see an increase over 2019's pre-pandemic spending (Deloitte 2023 Holiday Spending report). This means we will likely see an increased level of engagement online with retailers and planners. 

In our everyday lives, online interactions are just an established part of our way of life. Shopping is one of the areas where we see a massive number of users engaging in increasing numbers all the time. Black Friday sales, cyber-Monday sales, all center around the online shopping experience now. Exclusive deals online cater to the influx of online shopping that we have seen over the past few decades. And all of this has been done with broad accessibility being considered, but digital accessibility for those with disabilities has been an afterthought in many cases. 

Let’s think about when we are searching for products on a website. Imagine trying to determine what a product might be without being able to see the image of it. This issue can be compounded when there are issues navigating through the product information and when the heading for the product is generic or nondescript. Without clear labeling, product information, and a logical way to navigate through this information, assistive technology users can struggle to even make sense of what a product might be. This is just one of many examples of how the online shopping experience can lack inclusivity.  And this does not just apply to online shopping. It is also something that is prevalent with how we engage with our social groups during the holidays. 

I think about my own family interactions during the holiday. I have a family member that likes to coordinate everything for family events, and gift assignments, through Facebook. I am not someone that uses Facebook. I do not even have an active Facebook account. Because of my lack of activity with the medium that they have chosen to communicate, it has made that inaccessible to me. Now, this isn’t exactly the same as a lack of digital accessibility, because part of it is my choice not to have a Facebook account. But there are areas with online interactions where the individuals are not making a choice to be left out. 

We have seen improvements over the years around the accessibility of online shopping and mobile shopping apps, but they still are not in a place where accessibility is a guarantee. One of the world's largest online retailers still has some pretty glaring accessibility issues and the entire layout of their platform can cause some serious impediments to those that want to shop online. 

So, what does this all mean for the greater global community? It means that we still have a ways to go before we become a truly inclusive society. During the holidays, we should really take into consideration the needs of others. This is a time of year where the betterment of humankind is really highlighted. So, when we are planning for family events or doing our online shopping, we should think about others and their needs. How can we be considerate of the needs of people in our families or social groups? How can we help those that might find it difficult to do their shopping online? One of the ways we can make lasting improvements in these areas is continuing to draw attention and awareness to the need for greater inclusion and accessibility. This is not something that requires deep technical knowledge or subject matter expertise. This is a way that all people can spread the word about the need for more inclusive practices in digital spaces. 

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