Business cards should enhance our ability to make quick, professional connections and to stay in touch with our contacts. But let’s be honest, they can be cumbersome to hold onto and are easily misplaced. You can image that they are practically useless for those with disabilities who lack the ability to read the content, or to copy the information into digital formats.
Very few people use rolodexes these days, and if a card isn’t lost in a junk office drawer, it’ ends up in the trash can or in a pants’ pockets, and eventually in the washing machine.
QR codes provide solutions to these common downfalls of business cards, and should be considered a staple feature on modern business cards to provide universal and dynamic access.
Common Issues with Printed Business Cards
Roughly 80% of business cards are thrown away within a week of being received. Carrying a poorly designed and hard-to-read card decreases your chances of breaking into the top 20% of cards that aren’t immediately trashed.
There are many items overlooked when designing and printing business cards which directly undermines their main purpose, ie. making quick, professional connections with people in our business circles.
Overlooked items include:
- Poor font style and size
- Formatting issues
- Too much content
- Text color contrast issues
For those who are blind or have low vision, these problems can make a business card useless. Business cards can also be inherently difficult for people with certain motor impairments, cognitive disabilities, and a lack of digital device skills. These scenarios make transcribing the physical business card information onto a computer or cellular device cumbersome.
Solutions & Braille
There are many traditional solutions to getting around these common pitfalls. For example, using clear, recognizable font style; providing enough space between characters; keeping card design simple; not overlapping important text with decorative elements; and only including necessary details.
Other ideas have been promoted to optimize business card design for people with disabilities. Advocates for the blind community have been pushing to normalize the inclusion of Braille alternative text for business cards. Because Braille is deciphered by feeling, little needs to change with the actual design of a card because Braille can be embedded into the card material itself. This means you can make one business card and you don’t have to necessarily carry around two versions. Many companies offer this additional feature.
Braille business cards have been a viable solution to a problem with very few alternatives. However, Braille has many pitfalls, and newer solutions are becoming much more viable.
For one, the limited demographic impact of Braille makes it difficult to convince the average professional to add the additional cost for special printing. About 2.4% (7.6 million) of the U.S. population is considered “legally blind,” and only an estimated 7% (532,000) of those individuals are Braille readers.
Braille itself is limited as well. Braille lettering is equivalent to a 29-point font size, and only four lines of Braille can actually fit onto a traditional business card template. This is typically enough room to fit critical, basic information (name, phone number). However, longer names, URLs, and emails can present challenges for space.
Digital Solutions for Business Cards
As mentioned above, imprinting Braille alternative text into a business card has been a great way to expand the usability of business cards. However, with the prevalence of digital devices and the growing reliance on them by the disabled community as assistive tools, other solutions are quickly becoming more relevant.
Thanks to technology, printed materials are not as inaccessible for people as they were. Google and Apple smartphones are being sold with native software features that can scan and dictate text. This means a blind individual can simply scan a traditional business card and gain access information.
Quick-response (QR) codes have become a bridge of touchless access between the physical and digital worlds. These two-dimensional box barcodes have been scannable with phones for about 10 years but only have surged in prominence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because these codes use a matrix of dots and spaces, they can transmit information for a large variety of uses, both directly and through the internet. Scanning a QR code can open a webpage, display text digitally, directly connect someone to a network, and even compose emails and text messages. QR codes are now being used in commercials and broadcasts to provide direct access to special promotions and news stories.
QR Codes For Accessibility
For people with disabilities, touchless solutions through QR codes mean bypassing common barriers altogether rather than working through them. QR codes solve perceivability issues through the use of a phone camera. They also streamline navigation by automatically opening webpages and performing tasks by avoiding the necessity of entering complex passwords or links.
Anyone can create and use a QR code, and many blind individuals are now using pre-printed QRs to tag items, such as physical documents, clothing items, and food products. Augmented reality assistive tools, such as Google Goggles, can prompt users when a QR code is present, which can alert a blind or low-vision user when a code is nearby and give them the option to scan it.
Accessible Business Cards & QR Codes
Because of the versatility of QR codes and how they make content access easy, they are quickly becoming staple features for business cards. The touchless capability of QR codes means anyone with your business card can easily navigate your website.
The codes are so dynamic that now they can provide non-internet download prompts for your vCard so someone can instantly add your name and information to their cell phone without ever needing to see it or enter it. This means anyone, anywhere, regardless of skill level or internet access, can add your professional information to their card. It also means your business card’s fate isn’t the trash can. In one scan, your information can be saved by other professionals.
Want to see it in action? Set your cell phone to airplane mode, open your phone’s camera, and scan the QR code below.
[CREATE AN EXAMPLE QR CODE FOR READERS TO INSTANTLY DOWNLOAD A BUSINESS vCARD]
Business cards are great assets for quick, on-the-spot, in-person networking. However, there are many shortfalls with their use. Business cards are hard to keep up with, and the vast majority of them end up wasted.
Furthermore, traditional business cards can be difficult, if not impossible to read for people with low vision or who are blind, especially if cards are designed and formatted poorly. Copying business card information into digital format is also cumbersome for everyone and challenging for those with physical or cognitive disabilities.
QR codes bridge over the majority of these shortfalls and provide a direct connection from print to digital with few manual requirements. When your business cards are easy to use and secure, contacts can find your information in their repositories, and your networking will become more fruitful.