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Adam Turner

Making the business case for accessibility

Accessibility


The need to improve digital accessibility continues to be deprioritised within many organisations or is not fully understood. In some cases, it may be necessary to make a business case for the relatively modest investment in the tools you need to improve accessibility. You may also need to convince a particular stakeholder of the importance of the need for improvement.

The good news is what there are a range of very solid reasons to improve the accessibility of your website. On paper, it should not be a difficult business case to make; moreover, the cost of investing in a tool like Sitemorse with an automated approach to testing content for accessibility is relatively modest.

A business case provides a better understanding of accessibility

Often, we find the de-prioritisation of accessibility is down to a fundamental lack of understanding about improving accessibility, so providing context in your business case can be essential.

A successful business case has to provide a better understanding of what accessibility actually is and what is needed to improve it, particularly relating to compliance. For example, a business case might cover:

  • The range of different types of accessibility needs – this is not just about people with visual impairments
  • The kind of experiences visitors have when a site is not accessible and the experiences they have when it is
  • What compliance actually is, explaining what the WCAG 2.1 rules are
  • What actually needs to be done to improve accessibility, emphasising that improvement is not a one-off project but in reality requires ongoing activity
  • That your CMS does not offer a fully accessible site “out of the box” or all the tools you need to drive improvement.

Then, when you are arguing your business case there are a number of specific points to cover. The weight you give to these will depend very much on your organisational priorities and what is going to resonate with your budget holders.

  1. It is a legal requirement, or you risk legal action

    Legal compliance and the associated risks are at the centre of the business case for investment in improving accessibility. It is an obvious area to focus on. Your legal requirements will depend on your sector and country you operate in; however, the threat of legal action can impact almost any organisation.

  2. It may be a regulatory requirement for your sector

    Many regulators are also focusing on accessibility as a given, for example industry regulators and professional associations, either in guidelines or more specific rules. Sometimes industry-specific rules are enshrined in legislation. Public sector bodies and higher educational establishments in the UK, airlines in the US and legal firms in the UK all have a need to drive accessibility compliance.

  3. It makes commercial sense

    A much higher proportion of site visitors have accessibility issues of one kind or another than most people realise. By ignoring accessibility, you unnecessarily alienate a proportion of your customers who may find it harder to read content, make a transaction or simply go elsewhere because it appears that you do not value their custom. It makes solid commercial sense to cater to the needs of all your visitors.

  4. It is risky for your reputation

    The threat of a lawsuit and the related negative media attention that comes with it represents a reputational and brand risk. For example, the high-profile case involving Domino’s Pizza is all over the internet. Generally, the headline of an organisation failing to meet accessibility standards or not responding in the right way to a lawsuit or to a visitor with accessibility issues hardly ever reads well.

  5. But it can also be good for your reputation

    Conversely, if you are making a strong effort around accessibility this can actually be good for your reputation and put your brand in a good light. For example, there have been occurrences where organisations have been praised in the media for their efforts, and site experiences and commitments can resonate strongly with those with accessibility issues when compared to your competitors who are less focused in this area.  

  6. It is good for general usability

    Improving accessibility actually helps all of your site visitors. Many of the improvements you make are actually good for general usability, for example adding labels on check boxes or providing navigation on PDFs. Moreover, when you consider content in terms of those with accessibility issues, it tends to be better structured and written, helping general content quality.

  7. It is good for SEO

    There is some overlap between improvements you make for accessibility and the improvements you might make to support good SEO, for example, ensuring you have Alt Text for every image on a page.

  8. It supports Diversity and Inclusion

    Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is an important commitment made by many organisations that also has solid business benefits. D&I policies will explicitly cover customers and employees with accessibility issues so if you want to remain consistent with your organisation’s own policies and commitments then you need to be focusing on website accessibility.

  9. It supports your employment value proposition

    Websites often have an important role to play in attracting new talent and supporting effective recruitment. Having good accessibility helps to support your employee value proposition; it demonstrates that as an organisation you both invest in people and support D&I and have the right priorities.  

  10. It is consistent with your values

    Most larger organisations have some kind of values and related statement that are used internally or externally. Although these will differ from organisation to organisation, generally these will have an underlying principle of treating people with respect and allowing everyone to reach their potential. We would argue that in most organisations if you are not committed to improving website accessibility you are not being fully consistent with your organisational values.

  11. It is the ethical thing to do

    Clearly supporting people with accessibility issues is ethically the right thing to do. Although it may not be a point to include in every business case, it is very difficult to argue against what the majority of people will consider to be the correct ethical position.

  12. There is currently an increasing reliance on everything digital

    The coronavirus pandemic is going to impact us for a prolonged period. There is now an increasing reliance on digital channels and interactions in all aspects of life. In some respects, the crisis has been a catalyst for an overarching process of digitalisation that was already happening. With everybody using digital channels more and more, good accessibility becomes more and more important.

Make that business case

We think that there is a very strong case for prioritising investment to make improving accessibility actually happen. We hope the tips in this article help you make the business case and for your organisation to discover the obvious benefits of committing to good levels of accessibility.

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