Too many digital teams view website accessibility through a lens of compliance; it is something that must be met to reduce the risk of legal or regulatory action. This is perfectly natural and critically important; indeed, we regularly stress the risks involved. However, this does mean that website accessibility can be regarded negatively and seen as an obligation rather than a benefit.
Actually, improving website accessibility is a highly positive move. It is a strategic investment with plenty of benefits that include improving the user experience for everybody, not just those with accessibility issues. There are a host of other benefits too such as better SEO.
Another advantage of improving website accessibility is the enhancement it can make to the perception of your organisation and its brand. We know that not improving accessibility and being embroiled in legislation can really damage your reputation. Conversely when you improve accessibility it can positively reflect your brand by demonstrating that you are an organisation that treats customers, employees, suppliers and the wider community with respect.
It tends to do this in two ways. Firstly, it sends a positive message to any visitors who have accessibility issues; they are able to experience directly your commitment to accessibility. This group is usually a far greater proportion of site visitors than many digital marketing teams realise.
Secondly, an accessible website substantiates and validates any statements an organisation makes about how it treats its customers, employees and the wider community. Organisational websites usually contain statements about policies and approaches that put the organisation in a good light such as: customer commitments and a company’s values; good accessibility provides evidence that your organisation is putting these polices and approaches into action. A website with poor accessibility undermines the validity of these statements.
1. Customer Service
Many organisations are keen to stress commitments to customer service and will invest in programmes to make sure that it is high quality. The website may contain statements that describe your organisation’s commitment to customers or the levels of service that people can expect.
A far higher proportion of users who visit your website will have accessibility issues than most people realise. An accessible website reflects a commitment to helping and servicing all your customers, not just those who are not impacted by poor accessibility.
2. Diversity and Inclusion
We recently explored the importance of Diversity and Inclusion (D&OI) policies and how companies are keen to reflect this as a positive part of their employee value proposition. Diversity and inclusion policies need to make provision for groups with accessibility issues. Demonstrating a strong commitment to both digital and workplace accessibility shows a D&I policy in action and sends the right message to prospective candidates for roles.
3. Values and purpose
Many organisations define “values” or even a deeper purpose and mission that they also share externally. It’s easy to be cynical about some “value” as smacking of tokenism, but actually they can be important for both employees and customers.
Most values and purpose tend to stress qualities such as focus on people, respect and generally things which reflect a good moral standpoint. Ensuring your digital channels are properly accessible suggests an organisation that is living these values rather than ignoring them.
4. CSR and community
Sometimes connected to values and purpose is also a commitment to supporting different communities and engaging in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. Again, accessibility compliance is almost certainly to align and accentuate any messaging about your organisation taking its wider responsibilities more seriously.
5. Ethical position
Companies like to represent themselves as ethical, for example in their dealings with their supply chain. In our view, taking accessibility seriously is a good ethical position to take.
As far as we are aware, taking accessibility seriously and making your website accessible has never been negative for a brand. It sends a positive message to groups who benefit from a more accessible website and it helps to validate your statements on D&I, values and more. To reiterate, improving website accessibility is a highly positive move.