Budgeting for Accessibility in 2021 (and Beyond)

by: David Titmus

The new year will be upon us sooner than we think, and it’s not too early (or too late) for businesses, government agencies, event centers, and others to begin considering their budget needs for 2021.

But as budget planners decide on which items (new products, advertising, social media, websites) to devote money and time to help their organizations grow, they often can overlook a very important need – accessibility.

Businesses and organizations set to thrive in tomorrow’s economy are working to meet the needs of their diverse customer base today. Included in that base are, according to a 2018 study by the American Institutes for Research, approximately 20 million working-age adults with disabilities in the United States who represent $490 billion in disposable income. That’s a sizable group with considerable spending power who may never find or use your services unless you consider accessibility in your business plan.

Below are just a few budget areas where accessibility solutions could be considered.

Corporate Web Conferencing

Captions at the bottom of a zoom conference call or budgeting accessibility blogWeb conferences and online meetings have jumped to the forefront this year as major corporations have asked (and are continuing to ask) that their employees work remotely.

Regardless of where you’re working, communicating with colleagues is crucial, and it’s especially important that everyone is included in the conversation.

VITAC can bring captions to multiple virtual meeting platforms, such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Adobe Connect. Our video conferencing solutions provide accessibility and inclusion for business meetings, training sessions, or intra-departmental discussions.

We also offer a variety of captioning solutions that help domestic and international businesses get messages out to their global customers. These include captions and transcripts for recorded videos and webinars, Spanish captioning (live and prerecorded) and multi-language captioning and subtitling, and audio description offerings.

Government Meetings/Briefings

Accessible communication (and, at times, the lack thereof) has been an important topic of discussion over these past few months as government officials have held press briefings and news conferences on a variety of breaking news topics, from COVID-19 to weather emergencies to civil and social unrest.

Timely and accurate communication is crucial in all emergency situations. But these situations bring an even more unique set of challenges for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, specifically those who depend on captions and sign language.

Our government captioning services cover everything from press conferences to city council meetings to state legislatures to federal agencies to archived government videos and prerecorded informational materials. Many of our municipal clients also use our audio description solutions to provide accessibility for individuals who are blind or with low-vision.

And though we’re still a few months away from this November’s general election, campaign ads already are overtaking the airways and will only increase as we move into the fall. Most political commercials must be captioned, and we work with commercial producers to offer quick turnaround of political spots.

Online Video

Woman watching video on her mobile phone at a coffee shop counter for budgeting accessibility blogBusiness websites are a must and, for many, the new front door for customers looking to make a purchase or do business. Making that website accessible via such things as captioned video content, screen contrasts, and pages that work with screen-reading software all go a long way towards welcoming all clients and potential customers and keeping businesses safe from lawsuits.

Recent stats show that 85% of all internet users in the United States watched online video content monthly on any of their devices. And it’s not just TikTok videos, as studies show that 54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support.

Adding captions to video content is one way that businesses can make sure that their messages and products are being seen by the largest audience. In addition to making that content accessible to all viewers, captions help boost a video’s search engine optimization (SEO) ranking, giving it a greater chance of being near the top of a web search. Captions also have been shown to increase viewer engagement and help them better remember the content.

Looking Ahead – Live Sports and Events

Sports have started to resume play in recent weeks with the pro baseball, basketball, and hockey leagues once again hitting the diamond, hardwood, and ice. Though fans aren’t yet a part of the in-stadium experience, it’s nonetheless important to consider accessibility for the day when spectators can return.

VITAC’s Event Center and Stadium Captioning Solutions help make games, events, and concerts inclusive to all, while also meeting accessibility requirements under the ADA.

Our services enable remote captioners to listen to live audio feeds from arenas, stadiums, or event centers, and translate that audio into realtime text that can then be displayed on the venue’s scoreboard, ribbon board, or in-stadium closed-circuit television system. Captions also can be streamed to a dedicated URL, enabling fans to access captions directly on their mobile phones or tablets.

In addition to sports teams using VITAC to bring the action to their fans, corporations have used us to provide captions at large-scale conferences and trade shows, and universities bring VITAC captions to their commencement ceremonies to ensure accessibility for all participants and attendees.

Make the Right Budget Decision

Ultimately, there is no substitute for being 100% ADA compliant. Providing accessible solutions for all customers, clients, and employees — whether it be via captioned content and online conferences or accessible website design — not only satisfies ADA requirements but, perhaps just as important, is good business and simply the right thing to do.

There are significant advantages (and legal penalties) involved for organizations and facilities that are not accessible and compliant with federal regulations, and those who don’t consider the true cost of accessibility will continue to be at a disadvantage.

VITAC’s wide variety of services make it easy for businesses of all sizes to hit their accessibility goals in 2021 and beyond. Give us a call for more information.