Leveraging Accessibility for an Expanding Digital Audience
Can you imagine a world where you cannot navigate through websites, read email attachments, access online study material, or order food online?
Unfortunately, WHO has identified over 1 billion people who live with functional difficulties and face these challenges every day. This includes those that use technology like screen readers to access digital content due to low vision or blindness. Accessibility is the practice of making information, environments and services meaningful, inclusive, and usable for everyone, including persons with disabilities (PwDs).
Who is an Accessibility User
An accessibility user is not only a person with a permanent disability. It can be anyone whose access to information, activities, and/or environments is impeded by a temporary, recurring, or permanent condition, age, language, culture, education, economic position and technological aptitude. It is shocking to learn that 90% of websites and countless inherently inaccessible PDFs are still inaccessible to PwDs who rely on assistive technology (AbilityNet). Evidently, websites and documents need to be made accessible to all.
Why Digital Accessibility is the Need of the Hour
Digital accessibility is increasingly playing a key role in business since companies are being encouraged to promote Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives (DEI). The fact that this also helps in avoiding litigation, opens up new business opportunities and makes for overall improved user experience.
The 2021 State of Digital Accessibility Report states the top 3 reasons why organizations are addressing accessibility:
- 77.6% Are including people with disabilities
- 61.7% Are providing the best UX for all users
- 61.3% Are complying with laws
The US Government outlined the regulations for document compliance for PwDs under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1, Section 508 and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If these standards are not met, businesses stand the risk of expensive lawsuits. Many organisations are waking up now to the fact that embracing accessibility actually leads to multiple benefits as shown here:
Strengthens brand presence
Document accessibility is getting more attention as increased focus is given to the needs of people with visual challenges. For PwDs, technology can help increase inclusion, independence and equal access. According to the 2021 State of Digital Accessibility Report, 64.9% of companies say their top accessibility goal for 2022 is improving usability for PwDs as part of their overall diversity and inclusion strategy.
A well-integrated accessibility commitment establishes a brand as an inclusive business, resulting in enhanced brand image and reputation, customer loyalty, improved workforce diversity, and increased sales.
Extends market reach
The total disposable income for U.S. adults with disabilities is about $490 billion. With the US inflation rate accelerating to 9.1% in June 2022, the highest since November of 1981, and the purchasing power of customers eroding, businesses can leverage accessibility to widen their market base and tap into the dormant spending power of PwDs.
Minimizes legal risk
According to a report from accessibility.com 2,352 web accessibility lawsuits were filed against U.S. businesses in 2021 — a 14.3% increase from 2020. With this alarming increase, global enterprises gearing up to create accessibility policies and programs to avoid risk and protect their businesses.
Improves customer experience
Accessible design improves the usability experience for all users. Businesses that integrate accessibility in their overall business strategy, and creative process, are likely to be inclusive enterprises that reach more people with positive brand messaging, and meet emerging global legal requirements. Consequently, making an ethical commitment towards equitable and responsible design is key in today’s social structure.
Leveraging digital accessibility for an expanding audience, which includes PwDs that are likely to become more active digitally with Web 3 and the Metaverse in the near future, is the need of the hour for businesses. It is clearly a strategic business decision that can drive long-term growth and enhance brand image while contributing to the creation an unbiased and inclusive society.