Your Customers Can’t Wait: 6 Reasons to Prioritize Accessibility
Evaluating accessibility when developing or redesigning any software is not a choice, it’s a responsibility.
Failing to ensure that your software meets accessibility standards and is available for use by as many people as possible can be ruinous and hit where it hurts most, in your pocket, your reputation, and your brand.
But if you think that keeping on top of accessibility issues boils down to a technical checklist and an insurance policy against being sued, think again. There are plenty of moral, legal, and financial reasons why creating an accessible user experience (UX) is the right thing to do. But you also don’t want to miss out on the chance to create a great UX for everyone. Here’s why.
1. Ethical issue
To be clear, digital accessibility is a serious moral and ethical issue. As software allows us to do more around education, finances, fun, health, shopping, staying in touch and work, we all need to make sure that the direction we’re heading in takes everyone along for the ride. All the more so as the digital world increasingly connects us to everyday objects and services, in effect turning our desktop, laptop and mobile devices into the remote controls to our lives.
Hence, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), widely accepted as the benchmark for web and mobile accessibility today.
2. Untapped market
Ignore accessibility issues and you leave big money on the table. Around one in four American adults – 61 million people – lives with some form of disability, representing an estimated purchasing power of over $490 billion. Globally, this audience stands at 1 billion adults who, once you include family and close friends, control an estimated annual disposable income of $7 trillion.
That’s huge! And in developed countries, this audience and its spending power is only likely to get bigger. Why? First, because as people live longer, they experience more medical ailments causing disability or impediments in their older years. Second, more people of all ages – with or without disabilities – want to do business with brands whose beliefs and values align with their own.
3. Legal consequences
Another concern about ignoring the accessibility of your software is the potential for lawsuits and fines. Today there are more than 30 regulations globally in the developed world governing accessibility supported by WCAG. These include:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is a piece of US federal legislation passed to prevent discrimination against disabled individuals, either by government agencies or private companies.
- The European Accessibility Act, adopted by the European Commission, which sets EU-wide minimum accessibility requirements for a range of products and services.
Without doubt, the legal penalties are punitive for ignoring issues such as ensuring websites are coded to work with assistive technologies, like screen readers. They are also on the rise. In 2020, for example, the USA saw an increase in federal website accessibility lawsuits filed according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw. And that’s just public and commercial websites; it’s also despite a mid-year pandemic lull in filing.
Having identified the pitfalls of ignoring accessibility issues, let’s take a look at what makes meeting WCAG 2.1 standards and creating inclusive experiences in simple and complex technological landscapes the right choice all round. And the benefits are…
4. Better Experience for All
A common misconception is that prioritizing accessibility requires a focus solely on users who are differently abled. But, making web content more accessible to those with disabilities also drives innovation and great UX for all.
This ranges from faster download times and the features we all use in noisy environments, bright sunshine or when temporarily having use of only one arm to mainstream adoption of technologies such as voice-activated search for smart speakers.
5. Time saving
Designing for accessibility also leads to better coding practices, which can save you bags of time, trouble and heartache down the line. And as all your information is better and more clearly organized, for websites it’s also more SEO friendly, meaning you reach a bigger audience as a result.
In short, accessible design is good design that also addresses usability and inclusion to create a digital world that works for everyone.
6. Better brand
Businesses that demonstrate their clear commitment to digital accessibility for customers and their own people can also enhance their brand image and reputation to increase sales and customer loyalty and, of course, reap all the financial benefits and more of a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Barclays Bank, for example, has embraced accessibility to reduce legal risks, improve customer experience and colleague productivity, and strengthen its brand presence. You can read more here.
Don’t wait for the lawsuits! And don’t be the person whose shoddy website or app prevents the 15% of people globally living with disabilities maintain their independence and access vital governmental services, apply for a job, participate fully at work, learn a new skill, book a taxi, holiday or restaurant, control their home heating… the list goes on.
By addressing accessibility issues, you will:
- Ensure that your software is available to all, thereby making the world a better and nicer place
- Reach untapped markets, including those with disabilities and their family and friends
- Mitigate the risk of time-consuming lawsuits and hefty fines
- Drive innovation and create exceptional UX for everyone
- Develop better coding practices and extend your market reach
- Build better PR to enhance your reputation and brand
Put simply, evaluating accessibility when developing or redesigning any software is not a choice, it’s a responsibility. Besides, you’ll design and develop better products that more people of all backgrounds will be able to use and enjoy.
Your next steps
Typically, it’s best to evaluate accessibility early and throughout the software development cycle to make fixing any problems easier to address. But if you haven’t thought about accessibility yet, you’re not alone, and it’s not too late.
There are many free automated tools that you can use for an initial accessibility scan, such as WAVE. However, tools alone are not enough, as they cannot cover all the guidelines for accessibility. Some things can only be tested by humans using assistive technology. This includes testing by real users with special abilities.
Qualitest’s unique Accessibility Testing Services pair accessibility experts with engineers who are differently abled to support both finding your accessibility issues and crucially, fixing them across your apps, websites and documentation. Our dedicated team can be mobilized within 24 hours to ensure top performance and smooth integration with assistive features for all platforms, including desktop, web and mobile, so get in touch.