For years, voice technology has been making the internet more accessible for everyone. Voice messaging apps, smart speakers and voice-activated devices allow us all to speak easily and naturally, find information more quickly and communicate with each other on the go.
But in particular, the recent rise in the popularity of voice technology has created new and exciting opportunities for users with disabilities, providing people with vision impairment or limited mobility with new ways to navigate the online world.
And in 2020, new voice messaging technologies are making it even easier for people who struggle with typing, reading or speaking English to communicate with their favourite brands.
Of course, it goes without saying that making your site user-friendly for all of your customers should be a top priority for your business. So let’s take a look at how voice technology can help you include more of your disabled customers in the conversation - and how introducing voice messaging to your website can make your brand more accessible to everyone.
How is voice technology making the internet more accessible?
Over the last few years, voice-first digital assistants and smart speakers like Siri and Alexa have been making a world of difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
Online translation tools have also allowed people who don’t speak a country’s native language to get important messages across to others, voice recognition software has enabled people who are visually impaired to find important information online, and voice-activated devices have helped people with limited dexterity to go about their daily routines.
For example, back in 2017, Todd Stabelfeldt, an IT Consultant who became a quadriplegic at the age of eight, told NBC News about how Apple’s voice-activation features helped him maintain his independence:
“I use voice recognition on my iPhone, pretty much every day all day. Between Siri and Switch Control, I can use my phone just as good as anyone with 10 working fingers.
HomeKit, Switch Control and Siri have given me a lot of value and a lot of opportunities to demonstrate that I'm a quality man and I'm a man of integrity."
And voice technology has also been widely praised for how much it has improved the lives of those who are blind or who have severe visual impairment. In 2018, Steven Tyler, Director of Assistive Technology at Leonard Cheshire Disability, told PC Magazine UK:
"Five years ago, Alexa would have definitely been an accessibility product. Today it's a mainstream product, but it just so happens the Echo ticks all the boxes around digital accessibility. And it's accessibility in spades!"
Clearly, voice technology has made a tremendous impact when it comes to transforming the lives of people with disabilities.
But at Telbee, we believe there’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to making the internet more accessible to everyone. While a whole host of voice-activation and voice recognition tools have started the ball rolling already, we’re aiming to continue this customer-first voice revolution by providing more - and better - options for disabled consumers to speak with brands online.
The future of digital accessibility is here
Our passion for helping to make sure the internet is accessible to everyone was one of the main reasons we developed our voice recording and messaging platform, Vox.
With Vox, brands can create fully customisable voice recorder buttons that they can host on their websites - either as an embedded widget, a pop-up tab or on a hosted page.
Visitors can then record voice notes for brands, which arrive in the company’s voice inbox for their whole team to listen to - and reply to directly by voice!
The benefits of voice messaging tools like this are far-reaching, and can help transform the usability of your website for a range of different people:
- Those who find it difficult or impossible to type
Voice messaging allows brands to engage people with arthritis, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and other conditions that make it difficult or impossible to type.
- Those who struggle to read and write
At the Voice Global Summit 2020, Ron Jaworski (CEO at Trinity Audio) discussed in his talk on ‘How the audio voice revolution is a golden opportunity for making the internet more accessible’ that there are around 32 million adults in the US today who can’t read, and 50% of adults in the US would struggle to read a book written at an eighth-grade level.
The fact remains that for millions of people across the globe, it’s simply easier and more natural to talk than to write. And for some, who are either illiterate or struggle with severe dyslexia, reading and writing can be extremely difficult. So why not let them talk to you instead?
- Those who are blind or visually impaired
In his talk at the Voice Global Summit 2020, Ron Jaworski also touched on the fact that 2.2 billion people across the globe currently struggle with some kind of visual impairment or complete blindness.
Allowing people who struggle with vision problems to reach out to you quickly and easily with their voices is one of the best things you can do to demonstrate real inclusivity as a brand.
- Those who do not speak English natively
One of the key opportunities that modern voice messaging technology presents us with is the chance to break down the language barrier completely.
With a voice messaging platform like Vox, people who struggle with English are free to record messages in a way that is natural for them - and send across their voice note to your business to be automatically translated (from one of 50+ different languages) and transcribed.
Not only will offering this option to international customers help expand your business’ global reach, it will also help your brand be more inclusive of people in your local community who might have recently immigrated.
Let your customers choose how they talk to you
It’s important to remember that adding a new communication channel to your website for disabled visitors doesn’t take away the option that your able-bodied customers have to write to you over email or make use of your live chat.
It simply allows you to open up new doors for all of your customers - and welcome everyone to your site with open arms by letting them communicate with you in a way that feels easy and right for them.
The fact of the matter is that no two people are the same. Every one of your customers is a unique individual, and it’s important that you show you understand this by giving them the option to choose how they want to talk to you.
Include everyone in the conversation
Ultimately, voice messaging makes customer communications - and the internet in general - more accessible for everyone.
Whether customers are able-bodied or living with a disability, voice messaging saves time (as they don’t have to wait on hold to get through to the right person) and allows people to listen and speak while on the move, giving everybody the freedom to communicate with brands from wherever they are at that moment.
But the real gift of voice messaging for business is the new opportunities it creates for those living with disabilities. And not only does voice messaging make life far easier for thousands of customers - it also gives brands the opportunity to demonstrate how much they value every single member of their audience.
It’s time we start using technology to ignite real change, and pave the way for a new normal - where every customer feels heard, valued and understood.
To find out how our voice messaging platform can make your brand’s website more accessible, get in touch with Telbee today!