Ana Mendão Costa

The role of communication agencies in accessibility promotion

Although Portugal has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which considers the goal of making communication and public services accessible, this is still not happening. A reality that also exists in other countries around the world.

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 266 million deaf people and 39 million blind people in the world, numbers that increase considerably when considering those who have gradually acquired hearing or visual impairments. This means that there are at least 305 million people who, in addition to “normal” everyday obstacles (which go far beyond the physical space), face strong communication barriers. Unfortunately, this is because people are still not sensitive to issues like this. Most people who do not suffer from any disability, only awake to the problem of the communication barriers when they deal directly with a case. The world is made up of many different people, but people still do not accept each other’s differences, and therefore there is action that need to be taken.

But what role do communication agencies play in promoting accessible communication?

First, you need to understand what the role of communication agencies is as a whole, and what “accessible communication” is.

A communication agency can be responsible for a range of activities, including helping companies and brands communicate effectively to improve business operations. Some of the most common services offered by communication agencies are communication strategy, public relations, copywriting and editing, media relations and social media management.

Accessible communication, on the other hand, is a general term to describe communication that is clear, direct, easy to understand and can be made available in multiple formats so that all users have equal access. It considers the various barriers to access information and removes them or provides alternative formats for communication to take place.

Knowing these two concepts, the answer seems clear: if the communication agency is primarily responsible for the way the brand communicates, then it should also be primarily interested in promoting communication that can reach as many people as possible.

But how? A first fundamental element is to recognize that we are dealing with citizens with very diverse characteristics and realities, with different degrees of autonomy and functionality. By putting disability on the business agenda, agencies can help brands have a real opportunity to increase their appeal to a wider customer base, build a strong brand that is closer to the public and allow their communication to be more efficient and reach them without distortion. Accessible communication benefits all audiences.

It is imperative that we, as communication professionals, ensure that people have an equal experience in accessing content and information, regardless of the platform they use, and that we educate the client on this issue, awakening them to the importance of reaching everyone, especially at a time when so much is said about inclusion and diversity.

Therefore, assure or advise a sign language interpreter at an event or conference, make sure all videos are subtitled, make sure that online texts are in Alt-Text, write hashtags in CamelCase and avoid the use of repeated emojis. These are just some of the small examples that can help make communication more accessible to everyone and that we should be properly aware of.

Communication accessibility is a small but important part of a larger goal: making the world and communication truly inclusive, and accessible, ensuring that everyone is included and feels properly represented.

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