Breaking barriers: How CPaaS enables inclusive business communication

Learn how CPaaS can help make business communication more inclusive and accessible.

Dave Hitchins

What is inclusive business communication?

Humanity is a diverse melting pot of cultures, languages, and physical abilities. Inclusive communication is the practice of ensuring that these differences don’t exclude or marginalize any person based on their age, disability, socioeconomic status or any other characteristic that makes it an extra challenge to fully access the content and services that a business provides.

Some of the key elements of inclusive business communication include:

  • Acknowledgement of diversity: Recognizing that every customer is different, but all have an equal right to fully participate in the communication process and have their views heard.
  • Accessibility: Ensuring all that all business communication is available to people with disabilities. This includes braille alternatives to printed text, sign language interpretation in videos, or providing the option of captioning in alternative languages.
  • Choice of language: Using language that is simple, unambiguous, and avoids terms and phrases that may only be familiar to a subset of native speakers, or that may be offensive to people of different race, gender or physical ability.
  • Representation: Represent the wide diversity of customers in communication materials and media. This goes further than simply including pictures of different sorts of people, it also means that all customers should be able to actively participate in interactions and have their views acknowledged and acted upon.

What are the rules around inclusive business communication?

Regulatory compliance in the area of inclusive communication is evolving and in many countries is still in its infancy. Many countries have rules in place to cover specific scenarios, for example providing terms and conditions or legal texts in alternate formats. Or they may publish guidance for businesses, but don’t yet have enforceable rules for making all business communication accessible.  

For example, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, which is the main international standards organization for the internet. The WCAG isn’t a set of laws that can be enforced, but many governments have adopted it as the standard for their accessibility regulations.

However, in the US, there has been an explosion in cases where individuals or bodies representing disabled communities have sued organizations claiming that websites were not designed to be accessible to people with disabilities.

While other parts of the world may not have the same litigious culture, there is a strong move in most territories towards ensuring parity for previously overlooked audiences of business communication.  

What are some common accessibility challenges?

There is a wide spectrum of challenges for people to fully access business communication. Many of these can be addressed by taking into account the language that is used and the format of the communication, but some groups of customers have very specific requirements that can only be addressed with the help of technology.

Challenges for blind people

  1. Visual content: In printed media, even where braille or audio alternatives are provided, partially sighted individuals cannot perceive the supporting visual content which may contain crucial information. This includes the images, charts, or graphs used in reports, presentations, or landing pages on your website. In some cases, providing alternative text (alt text) can help, but in many cases visual representations are too complex to describe in text.
  2. PDFs and scanned documents: Some document scanners will generate PDFs as images rather than text which prevent them being interpreted by the screen readers that blind people use to access this content.
  3. Complex language and technical jargon: Another challenge for users of screen readers is the use of language, numeric content and industry-specific terminology without providing simplified alternate explanations.
  4. Non-descriptive hyperlinks: In emails, and on websites links that are not appropriately labeled can make it challenging for blind users to understand the context and destination of the link.

Challenges for deaf people

  1. Phone communication: Traditional phone calls completely exclude deaf individuals who use sign language as their primary means of communication.
  2. Live communication: In-person meetings or events without sign language interpreters will exclude deaf participants from understanding and participating fully.
  3. Lack of captions: Deaf individuals cannot access audio or video content without proper captions or transcripts.
  4. Voice-activated systems: Voice-activated systems and virtual assistants are inaccessible to deaf individuals.
  5. Audio-only content: Providing content solely in audio format without any text-based alternatives makes it impossible for deaf people to access the information.
  6. Inadequate speech-to-text: Tech that does not accurately transcribe exactly what each participant is saying, therefore leaving deaf people at a disadvantage during video interactions.

How adopting inclusive design principles can help make business communication accessible

In the context of business communication inclusive design principles are a set of guidelines that help businesses to create products, content, and experiences that are accessible to the widest range of people, including those with hearing and sight loss or who have mobility challenges.

When designing business communication some of these principles are particularly relevant include:

Simple and intuitive: The content should be easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or level of education.

Flexibility: The content should accommodate a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. It should be provided in multiple ways for any type of customer to consume and engage with.

Perceptible: The content should present information effectively to all users, including those with visual and hearing impairments by providing alternate visual, auditory, or tactile formats.

Error tolerance: People with physical or mental disabilities will inevitably make more mistakes when interacting with a business. Content and media should therefore be tolerant of these errors and provide simple mechanisms to recover from them. For example, when designing chatbot flows there should be a mechanism for users to refine their answers until they are understood, rather than having to start again.

Simplicity: For business communication and processes that are action orientated, these should be designed to exclude unnecessary complexity and any distractions from achieving the core action. Think of a flight booking website which attempts to sell a host of additional products and services when all a person wants to do is book a flight.

Consistency: The content should maintain consistent standards and conventions across all formats and for all audiences.

Inclusive user testing: When testing customer-facing processes and technology businesses should involve users with diverse backgrounds, education, and physical ability to gather feedback and ensure inclusivity.

The role of assistive technology in inclusive business communication

Compared to just a few years ago there is now a range of technologies that can be used to ensure that business communication is accessible to as wide a range of customers as possible. The evolution of AI has been a game changer with image recognition, natural language processing, and speech-to-text technologies all contributing to enhance the capabilities of assistive tools such as screen readers, speech recognition software, and automatic captioning.

These tools are also available on a far wider range of devices, with smart phones supporting an ever-growing range of assistive technology including dictation technology, visual supports and translation tools.  

Digital native, web and social media companies have been at the forefront of making their technology and services available to the widest range of consumers. Some recent developments include:

  • Inclusive social media: Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been some of the first introduce features that promote inclusivity by default. These have included automatic alternative text for images and simple video captioning options to improve the experience for users with hearing impairments.
  • Virtual events and conferences: With the shift to virtual events and conferences, there has been an increasing emphasis on making these platforms accessible to all participants. Features like real-time captioning, and accessible presentation materials are becoming the norm and researchers are exploring technologies that can recognize and interpret sign language gestures.
  • Multilingual support: For international companies, an obvious barrier to making their communication accessible to all customers globally is the diversity of languages spoken. In the past this has been partially addressed by publishing multiple versions of websites and key content, but this has involved significant time and resources, and with over 7,000 languages spoken globally is not a viable solution. The sophistication of modern translation tools and their introduction into business and media communication have vastly improved the accessibility of global business communication.    
  • Collaboration and co-creation: More organizations are involving individuals from diverse backgrounds and abilities in the design and testing of their services and communication to ensure they are genuinely inclusive.  

How CPaaS can help businesses to make their platforms more inclusive

CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service) is a cloud-based communication service that enables organizations to add communication services provided by a third-party into their own applications so that they don’t have to develop their own solutions.

An organization looking to make their business communication more inclusive might work with a CPaaS provider to increase their channel coverage to include any combination of SMS, Voice, email or messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber and Messenger and to easily adopt new technologies that enhance the inclusivity of their communication across multiple channels.

In addition to the technology and infrastructure, the CPaaS provider can also help with onboarding strategy and provide assistance with the adoption of new technology and local compliance expertise for companies entering new international markets.

With Infobip’s CPaaS X platform there is significant scope to introduce automation to handle channel orchestration and failover logic to ensure that business communication is always delivered on the most appropriate channel, taking into account inclusivity legislation and the unique requirements of every customer.

The Messages API that underpins CPaaS X integrates multiple messaging channels into one interface meaning that you can provide a consistent experience not only for your customers, but also for your staff managing your communications who don’t have to switch between multiple applications and devices.

Some examples of the flexibility that CPaaS X provides for providing a more inclusive experience include:

  • Voice: When delivering automated voice messages, slow down the automated voice, enable the user to repeat the message, and extend the response time to over five seconds.
  • Email: Include illustrations and rich content to help recipients understand the message and to guide them towards performing any required actions.
  • WhatsApp: Enable agents and customers to easily switch between video or voice calls to provide users with a more guided experience. This can be achieved through applications such as Call Link.
  • SMS: When sending OTPs to authenticate logins or transactions increase the time window to give users more time to read the message and submit the code.

The solution is supported by a global professional services team who can help you explore new markets and reach people who you may have inadvertently excluded from your communications.

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Infobip is named a Leader in 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for CPaaS

Aug 3rd, 2023
8 min read

Dave Hitchins