Texting as an Accessibility Tool – The most important reason to add texting to your business

Keyboard with Chains Illustrate Digital Accessibility Problem solved by Message Mate

Most of our posts are about why texting is better. Better for customers, better for businesses. Generate more sales, provide better service. Anyone following this blog already understands the benefits. This post is about a completely different and much more serious benefit of texting: accessibility.

May is Mental Health Month which includes National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week (May 1st – 8th). Global digital accessibility awareness day also occurs in May (May 19th). With May coming to an end, we are taking the opportunity to draw attention to these issues one more time by highlighting the relationship between accessibility and texting.

How Texting and Accessibility Are Linked

When you add texting as a channel for customers to reach out, you may be helping people suffering from one of the following conditions become (or remain) your customers.

1. Hearing impairedAccording to the CDC, approximately 15% of American adults (38 million people) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing. And, less than a third of those who need hearing aids, actually use them.

Understandably, some of those people are apprehensive about picking up the phone. Calling is a situation that places even more challenges on hearing clearly. People speak too fast, there is no opportunity to read lips or understand gestures, and sometimes the line is bad. If you have hearing problems, accessing services via text can truly make your life easier.

(Note that those statistics do not include people who have trouble hearing due to environmental issues such as working in a noisy environment or an area with bad reception. Being considerate to them is another reason to use texting.)

2. Telephone phobia – This reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls is considered a type of social anxiety disorder. Sufferers don’t just dislike calls, they experience an adverse physical reaction when need to make or take a call. This leads them to avoid reaching out to find out information from businesses and to forego certain activities that require calls such as making a reservation or an appointment. There isn’t a lot of data on how many people suffer from telephone phobia. It is estimated that 7% of the population suffers from social anxiety disorders (fear of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people), the parent condition of telephone phobia.

3. Speech, voice, and language impaired – These are conditions that affect people’s ability to use their voice, speak clearly (e.g. stuttering), or communicate using language. Taken together these conditions affect 7-10 million adults. These numbers do not include conditions such as colds, laryngitis, or vocal cord lesions that can cause people to temporarily lose their voice. Those conditions affect millions more people every year, especially during the winter.

(Note that these statistics also don’t include customers who avoid phones because of they are concerned a foreign accent will prevent them from being understood.)

Considering the statistics, your business probably already has customers or potential customers suffering from these conditions. Improving your business’ digital accessibility through texting is sure to be appreciated by those customers and will also be better for your business. There’s no reason not to do it.

A note about email: If you think email has a similar accessibility benefit to texting in the sense that it does not require speaking or hearing, you are correct. However, while similar, texting is superior to email in many ways: It’s faster, it’s easier to use, it does not require an internet connection, and it does not require an email account. Even someone with a simple feature phone can use texting, making it the most accessible channel of communication worldwide. No wonder it’s also the most popular.

Accessibility is the name of the game, so why not use the most accessible channel available? Add texting to your website to communicate with all customers and potential customers quickly and safely, even if they suffer from a communication impairment. It’s not only good for business and for ADA compliance, it’s the right thing to do.

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