A few months ago our Technical Service Bulletin covered the topic Improving accessibility helps everyone. This is a very important point, but there are still those who aren’t convinced. Digital teams tell us they still encounter stakeholders within their organisations who de-prioritise accessibility and simply regard it as not that important. Others view it only through a compliance and legal lens and feel some resentment in signing off budgets, with improving accessibility something they are compelled to do. They do not see the many positive impacts of moving forward with accessibility for your digital channels.
It is wrong to view accessibility as unimportant or solely as something you have to do. Improving accessibility has multiple benefits; it’s an opportunity and a strategic investment that can even positively impact your bottom line and also has other softer, non-quantifiable benefits.
The proportion of site visitors with some form of disability is often higher than people think. In 2011 the World Health Organisation estimated that approximately 15% of the world’s population has disabilities. In the UK there are considered to be around 11 million people with disabilities. Specific issues also show high proportions of people impacted; 8% of men have red/green colour blindness. Many of us will find our vision declining as we get older.
It’s difficult to assess exactly how many or your potential site visitors can be considered having disabilities, but it is certainly a very significant proportion that can positively (or negatively) impact your revenue.
In a recent interview, one of our clients observed:
“Usability is accessibility and accessibility is usability; those two things go together hand in glove. If you've made it accessible, there’s a good chance it’ll be usable and vice versa. “
This is very true, especially when considering how some accessibility measures for your digital channels and content help those without difficulties as much as they do to those with issues. For example, adding subtitles to a video can be helpful to anybody who is in a noisy or public space and doesn’t have access to headphones, or is in an open plan office and doesn’t want to make a noise. Similarly adding sections to a PDF helps all your users navigate the document.
As Helen Grimley also points out, labels on checkboxes increases the area for all users to click on, not just helping those with screen readers. In fact, in many cases the changes you make which might be driven by the need for accessibility compliance are helping more site visitors than you think.
Many companies emphasize their commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as related values that promote equal opportunities and a level playing field. Many organisations are making real advances in actually delivering on these promises, for example in recruitment policies and processes. Multiple reports have shown the clear commercial benefits from committing to diversity and inclusion.
However, some organisations undermine their efforts by not having a truly accessible website or intranet. Accessibility needs to be part of any conversation about diversity and inclusion. Having a truly accessible website means you are consistently delivering on your commitments to D&I.
There’s simply not enough knowledge about accessibility in general, but also across the teams who are responsible for your digital channels. Efforts to improve accessibility can mean educating your teams not only in the nuts and bolts of what they need to do on specific pages but also in learning about the wider issues of accessibility. This additional knowledge has real value in helping your sites remain accessible, but also in driving an empathetic mindset that considers the full needs of your audience when designing future channels and content.
Of course, your website also needs to be compliant due to legal and regulatory requirements. This is often the driver for accessibility improvements, but actually there are many other reasons for investing in accessibility. However, with some less enlightened stakeholders, risk and compliance is often the angle which provides the most powerful business case for investing in website accessibility.
It simply makes no sense not to invest in improving accessibility. Besides making an investment to minimise the risk of being sued or falling foul of your regulator (and the related reputational damage that follows), it may be critical for more than one in ten of your visitors, and beneficial to the majority of all users.
Improving accessibility will absolutely help your website to achieve its goals in a tangible way that ultimately will have a commercial impact, from more online sales to driving a better customer experience than your competitors. It also contributes to other valuable strategic initiatives such as diversity and inclusion. Ultimately improving accessibility is a strategic investment – what are you waiting for?