What Separates Language from Accessibility and Responsibility? - Our Analysts' Insights
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25Oct

What Separates Language from Accessibility and Responsibility?

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It Doesn’t All Come Out in the Wash

All companies have many regulations and business requirements to comply with today – plus additional scrutiny from enforcers and public commentary alike. It may seem like a never-ending list: not only doing what’s right for the business, but for humanity and for the planet, too. Corporate websites have sections for accessibility; commitment to employees; measures for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); global corporate responsibility; ecological sustainability; and more. Many are striving to find ways to use inclusive language globally. In some situations, it’s a balancing act: you not only have to do the right thing, but in the right way, with accurate disclosures, and above all, continue to be true to customer expectations without making claims that aren’t backed up in reality – so-called “washing.” 

Wikipedia defines “bluewashing” as overstating a company's commitment to responsible social practices. “Greenwashing” applies to exaggerations of actions to help the planet; for example, major bank HSBC was recently accused of misleading customers and “greenwashing” its reputation by publishing an advertisement that declared large spending on ecological initiatives while forgetting to mention involvement in financing fossil fuels. 

There are other pitfalls entertainment producers in particular must beware of. “Blackwashing” – the practice of replacing a traditionally white character with a Black person. “Whitewashing” is just the opposite, the portrayal of a person of color by a white character. “Racebending?” That’s casting characters with actors of a different racial origin to the script or book. 

Why Does this Matter to Localization Teams?

Why is any of this important to localization teams? Because not only must they manage translation (and more and more, interpreting) that pays attention to all of these areas, but also because there’s a depth of knowledge and understanding within these teams that can benefit other groups within the organization.

  • Accessibility. User experience (UX) designers usually have responsibility for accessibility – but without the language piece. However, content in the right language is just another form of access. The line between accessibility and localization blurs even further when it comes to video: is captioning an accessibility aid, a precursor to translated subtitles, or both? 
  • Cultural customization. Other than for entertainment and cinematic productions, marketing is usually the producer of material that might be accused of “washing” within the scope of the enterprise. Do they take advice early at the storyboard stage, or must video and other content go through expensive customization for global campaigns? How is the localization function involved, if at all?
  • Corporate responsibility. Diversity, equity, and inclusion; recycling initiatives; gender pay gap commitments; personal data security; fair trade: all of these are corporate responsibilities that can differ in their content and approach depending on the locale. Again, these are areas where localization teams – and their LSP partners – often have a deep understanding that reaches beyond that of a headquarters team, especially if the company does not have a large presence in each market in which they do business. And yet, input for corporate responsibility policies resides mostly outside of the scope of any but a few localization managers.

We are not suggesting that the localization team claim responsibility for anything and everything within the global customer – and brand – experience. But we do predict a closer involvement of corporate functions and those responsible for language access, beginning with accessibility and localization. This is already happening in a few insightful companies. We encourage global businesses to consider bringing the teams with these responsibilities under the same umbrella. And the catalyst may turn out to be the exponential growth of video content – not only for marketing, but also as the delivery mechanism for customer care and support. 

What is more important than making all content appropriate for and accessible to all? Shouldn’t an organization’s team of language and cultural experts play a role? We think so – do you?

 

 

About the Author

Alison Toon

Alison Toon

Senior Analyst

Focuses on translation management systems, plus helping CSA Research’s clients gain insights into the technologies, pricing, and business processes key to executive buy-in

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