Making digital channels more accessible for people with disabilities is generally perceived as both a moral as well as a legal obligation. People recognise that it’s the right thing to do. The consequence of this is that you may be judged on the extent that you deliver on commitments to digital accessibility.
This can even have an impact on reputational impact. Although this can be both good and bad, the truth is that a negative reputational impact is more likely to be felt than a positive one. While making improvements that helps people with disabilities can put you in a good light, increasingly this is regarded as “hygiene”. Face a lawsuit relating to accessibility and you may find yourself at the centre of some very poor, ongoing publicity.
For example, Ticketmaster, the ticket booking operator introduced a significant change to the way people with disabilities can book tickets; they can now add details of their disability online to their profile and have these saved when booking tickets. And while we cannot comment on the general accessibility of their website, this initiative generated a news story on the BBC website that was positive in tone.
Contrast this with the ongoing media coverage of Domino’s, the pizza restaurant and delivery chain, relating to an accessibility lawsuit. Earlier in October the US Supreme Court denied the right for an appeal to Domino’s against an earlier decision where a blind man had sued the pizza giant for not having an accessible website. We previously mentioned this in our weekly accessibility bulletin. This received huge levels of media attention and while some coverage argued less against Domino’s actions and more for clarity around the law, for most readers it would appear to be mainly negative – a huge corporation not caring about disabled customers.
The first point about the Domino’s coverage is that it is prolonged. There were earlier decisions (the case originated three years ago) and the case will rumble on. Most importantly the ruling is significant and will be something negative that continues to be associated with Domino’s – others will keep on referring to the case and associating the brand.
The second point is that many members of the public will only absorb the headline and not the detail. Perhaps all they will ever see a title or link in a Google search or a Tweet. They may not actually see all the detail.
The third point is that if you make amends and make things right, the media will never cover that.
The fourth point is that the news items are preserved forever for all to see. This isn’t something you can bury.
We’re sure that the PR department would much rather be associated with great pizza and good customer service.
If you’re in charge of a small company, local government or university website perhaps you’re wondering whether accessibility can really impact your reputation. Apart from your legal obligations which now impact all public sector bodies in the UK, digital accessibility really can turn into a potential reputational issue quicker than you think. Accessibility is going to be a very hot topic in 2020 and will continue to get more and more attention.
Local press and social media coverage spread quickly and is all found via Google. Particularly in further education, it is very easy for a focus on poor accessibility to “go viral” across a student population.
Stories about Domino’s also get the attention of senior stakeholders reading the newspaper over breakfast or browsing BBC Online on the commute to work. Do you have a plan of action when your CEO asks you “What are we doing to improve our web accessibility?”
If you’ve been putting off improving your digital accessibility and moving towards compliance, then do it today. It really is time to give accessibility the focus, attention and prioritisation that it needs. Often making the first step may feel like the hardest part but it’s actually very easy:
Good luck on your digital accessibility improvement journey!
To find out more about how Sitemorse can help you with digital accessibility, please visit https://sitemorse.com/'