A critical component of any company’s growth and success is positive experiences shared by all customers. The keyword here is “all.” As we’ve advanced through modern times, remaining ignorant toward the needs of any segment of the population is no longer excusable—businesses must practice all-encompassing inclusion in customer service, marketing, and overall user experience.
If you lead a department or an entire organization, you need to ask yourself this crucial question: “If a customer is blind or visually impaired, do my employees know how to best assist them?”
Even if your organization spends thousands of dollars in staff training, the answer to that question might be an understandable “no.” Though the visually impaired population has certainly been around as long as companies have been providing services, the push for inclusion in all facets of the customer experience is a relatively new phenomenon.
Here’s a collection of best practices that can help you better serve visually impaired customers.
The Problem: Customers often have to demand accessibility options be made available before an organization even has standards in place.
The Solution: Get out in front of the need for accessibility and demonstrate that you value all of your customers. Have an honest conversation regarding your organization’s accessibility options and conduct an audit of your internal functions. Find out where the gaps are in your ability to meet all of your customers’ needs.
The Problem: Sometimes when you direct customers to your website or send them an email, you end up providing them with material that they cannot access.
The Solution: When building a website or planning collateral materials such as emails, make certain everything is ADA compliant and accessible. One of clearest examples are PDFs, which are typically inaccessible to the visually impaired because they are typically not compatible with screen readers. In order for a PDF to be made accessible, it must go through a process known as “document remediation.”
The Problem: Not everyone possesses the innate ability to properly address the needs of the visually impaired, whether that’s in person or over the phone.
The Solution: Train your staff to be sensitive toward customers with impaired vision. Place an emphasis on empathy and patience, two attributes that can go a long way in helping a customer feel comfortable. When assisting a blind or low-vision customer, your employee should offer clear directional assistance—remember, it’s impolite to point!
The Problem: Organizations tend to make assumptions about the habits of customers. But when it comes to accessibility, even best-intentioned assumptions can get in the way of customer service.
The Solution: All levels of your customer service apparatus should be prepared to ask if a customer requires assistance and if so, what type of assistance do they need. Communication is a key part of a mutually beneficial relationship between a business and its customers. Check in with customers often to gauge if their requirements are being met and if their needs have evolved over time.
The Problem: Some members of the visually impaired community might feel alienated by marketing efforts that they feel aren’t representative of who they are.
The Solution: Include actual visually impaired actors and models in marketing materials. Remember that it’s disrespectful to depict sighted people as visually impaired—it’s a misrepresentation of a major portion of the population and it could cause irreparable damage to your messaging.
What’s perhaps most important for organizations to remember is that visually impaired individuals make up a sizable portion of the consumer population. Globally speaking, at least 2.2 billion people live with some form of visual impairment, according to the World Health Organization. And in the U.S. alone, people with disabilities control an estimated $544 billion in annual disposable income. This, coupled with the ethical reasons to include everyone in your operational planning, makes adding accessibility options a no-brainer.