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The State of Digital Accessibility: Three Key Challenges

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The State of Digital Accessibility: Three Key Challenges

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Earlier this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) published its first web accessibility guidance in 10 years. It was meant to remind businesses of all sizes that their websites — just like physical storefronts — need to be accessible to people with disabilities. 

The DOJ guidance comes at a time when the majority of US businesses are getting swept up in accelerated digital transformation and a struggle to make their websites accessible to people of all abilities. 

According to WebAIM’s most recent accessibility analysis of the top one million homepages, 97% of websites have accessibility errors — such as low contrast text and missing written descriptions of images — failing to meet some of the basic Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a de facto international standard. This is a slight improvement from 2020, when 98% of homepages were inaccessible. 

With only 3% of the Internet accessible, we have an urgent problem on a big scale. 

There are a number of reasons why, despite the growing awareness of digital accessibility, expectations of inclusivity, and renewed efforts by the government, we are still lagging behind. 

Among those reasons are the following three challenges that reflect that state of digital accessibility today. 

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Three key challenges in digital accessibility 

1. The lack of clarity on legal requirements 

Illustration of a hand bringing down a purple gavel onto the web accessibility icon.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability, and other laws governing accessibility in the United States were written before the Internet became an integral part of our lives. Today, the Justice Department and courts across the country decide on digital accessibility lawsuits on a case-by-case basis, relying on WCAG as a technical standard. But because these guidelines haven’t been codified, for many businesses it’s hard to know with certainty which standards are applicable to them, whether their websites meet legal requirements, and what specific steps they should take to comply with the laws.  

The Justice Department’s 2022 guidance somewhat addresses this ambiguity by reaffirming that web accessibility is a requirement under Title III of the ADA. Title III of the ADA requires any business “open to the public” to make their online content and services accessible to people who rely on assistive technologies, such as screen readers, to browse the Internet. 

With the current laws, businesses can choose how to ensure their content is accessible to people with disabilities. The DOJ guidance points to the WCAG and the Section 508 Standards (which the US federal government uses for its own websites), but it doesn’t provide a new legal standard. For example, it’s not clear whether businesses with online-only stores have to adhere to the same legal standard as those with both physical locations and e-commerce sites. 

With so much left to interpretation, including how many and which WCAG criteria a website needs to conform with in order to be considered ADA compliant, it’s hard for businesses to know where they stand when it comes to digital accessibility compliance. 

Further complicating matters is the complex and ever-changing nature of the Internet.

2. The dynamic nature of the Internet 

Illustration of several web page examples floating against a purple and teal background.

Whether it’s personalization based on user actions and preferences, or new content creation – websites are constantly changing, posing an ongoing challenge to keep them accessible. Every change, no matter how small — like adding a new product description or an image — can potentially make content inaccessible to users with disabilities. 

In a recent analysis of 3,500 websites across 22 industries, including healthcare, e-commerce, and employment, AudioEye, a web accessibility platform, found that 79% of the websites had at least three severe accessibility errors that could potentially block an assistive technology user from interacting with the content and/or completing the goal of a site visit, such as submitting a form or requesting information. 

When comparing different industries in the same analysis, the analysis found that 83% of e-commerce sites, 78% of healthcare sites, and 77% of jobs and career sites had accessibility errors that blocked or significantly impacted users’ ability to complete key tasks, such as viewing product descriptions, making a purchase, filling out an application, or booking an appointment.

Considering the dynamic nature of the Internet and the speed of content creation (more than 250,000 sites are launched every day), it’s clear we need a web accessibility solution that can monitor for accessibility errors in real-time and help fix issues as they come up. 

And while automation can provide rapid improvement at scale, it cannot solve all errors. 

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3. Current limits of technology

Illustration of the web accessibility icon in a pink circle with a crack through it, centered among web page examples.

Even the best accessibility automation today, which can detect up to 70% of common accessibility errors and resolve two-thirds of them, cannot solve complex accessibility issues that require human judgment. Detecting more subtle errors often requires an understanding of context that is beyond even the most sophisticated AI today. For example, automation can detect that an image lacks a written description, or alt text, but it cannot tell whether an existing description is meaningful or accurate. Even with human judgment, if you ask two people to describe an image, their descriptions may be similar, but it is unlikely they would be exactly the same. Determining which description is the better one is also subjective, and AI is not yet able to make those types of judgments.

AudioEye’s analysis of 20,000 websites across industries showed that even the sites that were using some type of an automated digital accessibility solution — or about 6% of all sites in the analysis — still had accessibility errors with significant impact on the user experience. 

In another analysis — this time a manual audit of randomly selected 55 websites that used manual testing and remediation services, or traditional approach — AudioEye found over 950 accessibility issues. More than 40 of these sites had one or more severe accessibility issues, such as non-functional site navigation, unlabeled graphics, inaccessible video controls, and other issues that made digital content and tools inaccessible to people with disabilities.

Looking specifically at their own customers’ websites, AudioEye found that the majority of accessibility issues (up to 95%) can be fixed and prevented using a mix of automated and manual remediations, leveraging JavaScript, without the need to modify the original source code.

What will it take to solve digital accessibility at scale?

Accessibility solutions today range from simple automation-only tools to labor-intensive manual audits. AudioEye’s research, which included both automated and manual analysis of websites across industries, showed that the most effective way to solve web accessibility at scale is through a combination of technology and human expertise. 

To learn more about the state of digital accessibility and the role of technology in solving accessibility at scale, download AudioEye’s white paper on Building for Digital Accessibility at Scale which includes research details.

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MARKETING

Content Marketers Share Salaries, Career Paths, and More in 2023 [New Research]

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Content Marketers Share Salaries, Career Paths, and More in 2023 [New Research]

What’s it like to work in content marketing? Is it a rewarding career? Does it pay well? What’s the career trajectory?

You certainly know your answers to these questions. But, until now, little industry research has dived into content marketing careers.

We set out to find answers. Our goal is to help content marketers understand their opportunities and positions – and help companies develop meaningful roles and the resources and opportunities to retain them.

So, earlier this year, we asked content marketers about their work satisfaction, career development, and salary expectations.

More than 1,100 content professionals had their say. You can read the full story – including salary breakdowns by role, gender, and generation – in the Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook (gated).

New @CMIContent survey of #content pros gives a 2023 outlook on careers and salaries, says @EditorStahl. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Let’s take a sneak peek at some of the intriguing findings.

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You (mostly) like your content marketing jobs

More than half of the content pros (56%) tell us they’re very or extremely satisfied with their current position.

One content marketer explains: “I can be creative while being tied to business impact. Content marketing offers the fulfillment and growth of a creative career with the stability and compensation of a corporate career. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s possible.”

Another offers this explanation: “I love seeing all the pieces come together; how great words and innovative designs can affect and influence consumers and audiences. And I love working behind the scenes, getting to turn the cogs of the content machine.”

Satisfaction rates stay roughly the same from millennials to Gen Xers to baby boomers. (We had too few Gen Z respondents to report on their segment with confidence.)

Of course, that’s not to say the job is easy. When asked about stress levels, 24% of content marketers say they are “very” or “extremely” stressed.

24% of #content marketers say they are very or extremely stressed, according to @CMIContent #research via @EditorStahl. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

One survey taker explains, “The pace of work can be relentless. Just when you’ve completed one big project, another is right behind it.”

And some kudos go to employers. A significant majority (74%) said they feel their employers care about their stress levels and mental health.

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HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

You’re well educated – and eager to learn more

Among the surveyed group, one in three has a master’s, doctorate, or another advanced degree. As you probably know from your and your colleagues’ career pathways, people come into content marketing from many backgrounds (some come from multiple fields), including:

And content marketers are eager to expand their knowledge base:

  • Over 45% want to advance their skills in SEO, data analytics, audience development/segmentation, and integrating new technologies.
  • 40% show interest in honing their writing and editing skills.
  • One in three wants to hone their audio and video skills (filming, editing, and production).

Content Marketers Interested in Learning These Skills

Content marketers clearly rank high on the “digital dexterity” scale – the ability to learn new skills and adapt to new environments. That’s a sign of an adaptable, resilient workforce ready to meet whatever the future brings.

As Jean-Marc Laouchez, president of the Korn Ferry Institute, says in a Computerworld article: “Constant learning – driven by both workers and organizations – will be central to the future of work, extending far beyond the traditional definition of learning and development.”

And yet, many content marketers are looking for new positions

Content marketers like their jobs and are ready to learn. And yet, most (57%) say they plan to find another position within the next year or are unsure about their next steps.

Looking at it from another angle: Only 43% say they won’t be looking for a new job in the next year.

Only 43% of #content marketers say they won’t be looking for a new job in 2023, according to @CMIContent #research via @EditorStahl. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

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Will Content Marketing Turnover Remain High in 2023?

What’s driving this restlessness? Is it a persistent echo of the Great Resignation? Or a wave of “quiet quitting” in content marketing?

I don’t think so. Instead, the research points to something at the heart of content marketing careers.

Content marketing lacks a clear career path

The data highlights a troubling phenomenon: Only 23% of content marketers say they have a clear path for advancement inside their current company.

Nearly all the rest (69%) say they must leave their companies to advance or simply can’t visualize the path forward. (A small share – 8% – say they’ve reached the pinnacle of their careers and aren’t looking for advancement.)

Many Content Marketers See No Clear Career Path

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Robert Rose, our chief strategy advisor, has written about this problem: “Content marketing is growing exponentially. But the advancement ladder for content practitioners is missing most of its rungs.”

Companies that don’t address the content marketing career ladder will struggle to keep these highly educated, adaptable employees.

Where to?

Content marketers want better-defined career paths and are eager to advance their skills. So, where to begin nurturing their ambitions? With dialogue.

If you’re an individual contributor on a content team, speak up about your needs and wants.

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If you’re a team leader, involve your creative, results-driven professionals in open, honest conversations. Invite them to help shape their career paths based on their aspirations. Then partner with HR and executive leadership to provide what they need to achieve their goals.

After all, investing in their future also pays off for the brand.

Content Marketing Career & Salary 2023 Outlook offers more insights into:

  • Content marketers’ income
  • Unique career priorities by age and gender
  • Advice on how companies can recruit and retain the best content marketing talent

I hope you’ll download the e-book to learn more. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How do these findings align with your experience? What would you tell the next generation about content marketing as a career? Let me know in the comments.

Get the latest Content Marketing Institute research reports while they’re hot – subscribe to the newsletter. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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