Business Case For Digital Accessibility

This business case for digital accessibility outlines some common pragmatic concerns in considering digital accessibility. It also explains various approaches teams can take to present the case to business stakeholders. This is version 1 of the document. Up on recieving comments and feedback and additional inputs the next versions may be published.

Executive Summary:

Reaching every customer possible is the primary target of any product or a service. It is easy to reach a primary segment of customers with traditional marketing methods. To stand out as an exceptional product or a service, the target is to get the buying from every individual on the planet. One potential segment of customers are persons with disabilities and the age old population.

Thinking out of the box to reach these untapped markets can place the product or service in par with the competitor. The spending capabilities of these segments of customers is also huge. Of Course it is also the right thing to do and enhance the brand value. It also saves the organization from legal risk.

Thinking about these segments of customers while building the product right from the design and  incorporating global accessibility standards will improve the quality of product. The ROI and ease of using the product will also enhance.

Many times it is hard to convince business stakeholders to commit to digital accessibility. This business case for digital accessibility will share various benefits and convincing reasons to get the commitment from them.

Problem Statement

Business Stakeholders think digital accessibility is not important to their product, service or website. Often, though they agree accessibility is important, competing priorities or limited availability of budget push accessibility to the back seat.

For many disability activists and Inclusion supporters, Convincing business stakeholders to include digital accessibility is challenging. There has not been much emphasis on a good business case for digital accessibility.

Problem Analysis

Digital  presence of any product, website, service meant to be accessed by everyone on the planet. Everyone  includes those with disabilities, those who have age related challenges and  people who have temporary difficulties.  Business stakeholders often think accessibility do not apply to their product or service because

  • Paintings are our products  and people with blindness don’t buy them.
  • We only expect customers with disabilities use certain modules of our application
  • How many customers with disabilities really use our website?
  • We don’t have budget and resources to consider digital accessibility.
  • No one complained that our app is inaccessible.
  • We have physical stores so digital accessibility is not important for us.

While all the above statements look convincing at first glance, they can be thought slightly in different angles.

Deep Dive With Recommendations

The four benefits of digital accessibility for any product are

  • Business : Increase in profitability
  • Legal: Meeting to anti-discrimination laws
  • Technical: Easy maintenance and clean code
  • Social: being a socially responsible business

While all the above are true, In this business case for digital accessibility, let’s unfold various genuine concerns. We will also discuss some facts and figures to influence decisions in favour of digital accessibility.

Paintings are our products  and people with blindness don’t buy them

Paintings are not just to be seen, they need to be felt. Though I myself am blind, I can still buy beautiful paintings to decorate my home. My other family members, Guests and friends who visit my home enjoy them. Blindness does not stop anyone from buying and decorating their home or office.

Problems with blindness are not a concern for many artists. They only don’t buy them, many artists with blindness also draw them. Read about

 

10 incredible blind artists

 

.

That’s not all, this new year, I have gifted this

 

painting on Amazon

 

to a friend who moved to a new home. A person with blindness can also be a customer for your business.

We only expect customers with disabilities use certain modules of our application

In one of my earlier organizations, when I was about to be promoted to the next level in my job, one of the responsibilities was to access a few modules of the internal portal. Leadership in the organization are concerned to promote me since the critical modules responsible for the success of my next level are least accessible.

A typical such application is employee rewards or appraisal application. The year end achievements will be documented by every employee irrespective of the band. So, many organizations take this module in the application as high importance for accessibility.

The modules that allow review of employee achievements and share feedback are accessed only by employees having certain bands. These bands could be a team lead, manager and above in a hierarchical organization structure. A person with a disability will be performing and aspiring to be a manager in their career. The review modules are equally important to be accessible.

The two main points to remember here are

  • The applications should not be the barrier for the career success of any individual.
  • To claim an application for accessibility, all the modules and workflows need to be accessible. Partial conformance cannot be considered as a compliance.

How many customers with disabilities really use our website?

Let us check some statistics.

  • WHO reports 15% of World’s population live with some form of a disability.
  • 61 million or approximately 26% of adults in the United states have some form of a disability according to cdc.gov.
  • 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have color deficiency. This is equal to 300 million world wide. Almost same as the population of united states according to colorblindawarenesss.org

Considering all the above data, if we take 15% of customers who use our products face difficulty due to poor accessibility, their families at least another 15% will also be influenced with this concern.

It’s not everything. All of us become old. The challenges that come with age impact the ability to do many daily tasks including the use of apps and websites. Accessibility will impact each one of us at some point in our life.

So, now, directly the market impacted by digital accessibility is more than 30%. Whether they report it or not, we are already serving customers with disabilities and their acquaintances. Now it’s the time to retain them with delightful experience using our products and services. Digital accessibility is creating experiences for our future today.

We don’t have budget and resources to consider digital accessibility

Budget is one of the genuine concerns for many organizations to consider digital accessibility. However, to increase sales, to reach new markets and win large deals, organizations need to invest in digital accessibility. How will the budget be secured, planned and increased every year depends on the approach and the urgency of the project. Below are some cases to consider.

Legal Litigation:

As discussed one of the benefits of digital accessibility is to meet anti-discrimination laws in many countries. Read the next section ‘We never received complaints that our app is inaccessible” for more information. To abide by the court judgement and avoid further damage to the brand value of the organization, securing budget on an urgent basis is essential.

Integrate Accessibility in project Planning and commitment:

Secure a seat in the project planning meetings. Accessibility can be integrated in all stages of the project life cycle. Perhaps begin this year with,

  • Planning for accessibility standards, releases and path ahead.
  • integrating accessibility  in all new features and screens.
  • Implement easy and quick accessibility checks to your testing scripts.

Next year, or during your next planning cycle, add a few more areas to cover.

  • integrating accessibility  to all new features, screens and to key workflows.
  • Implement easy and quick accessibility checks to your testing scripts.
  • Add an accessibility automation tool along with the quick checks.

While being part of all key decisions of the product and securing budget and resources, make sure accessibility becomes a default agenda item in these key conversations.

Support from Diversity & Inclusion team:

Look out broadly within the organization for more support. The Diversity & Inclusion department may be a greatest supporter of digital accessibility. The  Diversity & Inclusion D & I, Employee Resource Group ERG etc can support in

Raise awareness on business case for digital accessibility

Get buyin for digital accessibility from other teams

Take the agenda to the leadership table. Maybe your leadership is already committed to

 

The valuable 500

 

or they are your clients committed to the Diversity & Inclusion agenda.

Identify any other potential ways to move the agenda forward

No one complained that our app is inaccessible.

If your organization never received a demand letter or has not been sued, it doesn’t mean accessibility is not important for the products and services offered.

From the website

 

ADA.gov

 

, According to Americans With Disabilities Act ADA:

Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations (businesses that are generally open to the public and that fall into one of 12 categories listed in the ADA, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, day care facilities, recreation facilities, and doctors’ offices) and requires newly constructed or altered places of public accommodation—as well as commercial facilities (privately owned, nonresidential facilities such as factories, warehouses, or office buildings)—to comply with the ADA Standards.

Many

 

legal cases

 

have been filed on the inaccessibility of websites and mobile apps. Websites and apps in many of these legal cases are considered as places of public accommodations. So, Do not think that your organization is an exception. In 2021, it was reported that at least 10 ADA lawsuits on digital accessibility  have been filed everyday on an average. This is an increase of 15% from 2020.

We have physical stores so digital accessibility is not important for us.

In this 21st century, only offline services are not sufficient to do business. This has been proven with the covid-19 pandemic. The world went into lockdown. As a result, digital first and virtual life became the new normal. Maybe a restaurant, grocery store, cloth store, doctor consultation, office meetings, everything went online. It is evident that most businesses can survive without a physical presence but cannot survive without online presence.

Secondly, under the legal framework, digital presence is also considered as public space. No matter if the business firm has physical presence or not, they are legally obligated to make the websites, apps, documents or any other digital infrastructure friendly to those who have disabilities.

In case if the offline store can offer everything the customer wants, what is the need of a website or an app? What else can the customer do on the website Vs in the store? What is the additional time, money and energy any customer with a disability has to put in to purchase over the counter while the rest of the world can sit at home or order on the go? Is the physical store accessible for customers with a disability to have a seamless shopping experience?

 

DOMINO’S  PIZZA, LLC V. ROBLES, GUILLERMO

 

, is a similar case where Domino’s  claimed the customer can order from the store or by calling via telephone while the website is not accessible. The case is still in the court.

Competitor Edge

It is also important to keep an eye on competitor product for accessibility. Customers with disabilities do not mind to pay few additional bugs for an accessible product if available that can solve the same problem.

 

Uber

 

the cab service in India cares for accessibility and their mobile app is accessible compared with their competitors. Large percentage of customers use Uber for this reason. The competitors then realised the potential of customers with disabilities using the ride service. Few of them have put efforts to make changes to the apps for accessibility.

Financial Overview

Digital accessibility is not expensive if you consider it from the beginning. Constructing your home with  steps everywhere and then realise one of your close relatives is a wheelchair user. Each time he visits your home, it’s difficult for him to get in. Now you have decided to demolish one of the entrances and  replace it with a ramp. Isn’t it expensive?

Same is with  digital content. Considering accessibility from the beginning can create an inclusive experience with less financial burden than the retroactive approach. Here are some approaches and the financial implications associated with them.

Shift Left Approach:

Incorporating accessibility in the early stages of project life cycle is the

 

shift left approach

 

. With this approach, the accessibility barriers can be found in as early as the design stage and continue through development and testing stages. This is cost effective and in general the effort involved for accessibility incorporation is usually somewhere between 20% to 30% in addition to the total effort.

Retroactive Accessibility

Making an existing website or mobile app and thinking about accessibility before the release is an expensive affair. With limited accessibility experts through-out the globe, auditing the product is very expensive and fixing the logged bugs is equally costly. Remember some times the user interface and user experience need to be changed to meet the standards.

Accessibility Training

In situations where the team is new to accessibility, it is a good practice to have the team undergo

 

accessibility  training

 

. The cost of the training depends on the size of the team. Keep the following in mind while talking with the

 

training vendors

 

.

  • Include disability sensitization and assistive technologies usage.
  • Include everyone involved such as project managers, designers, developers, quality engineers.
  • Use latest global accessibility standards such as W3C WCAG X.X. WCAG 2.1 at the time of this writing.

UI Libraries and Accessibility

As the product teams mature in accessibility and integrate the Shift Left approach, at the time of planning a new product or redesigning it, teams can review UI libraries that have accessibility integrated. One such library is

 

Adobe’s React Spectrum

 

Open source. This approach will largely reduce the development cost.

Implementation timeline

Accessibility is an ongoing process. The first time activity for an existing product is to begin with an audit. The audit results will give an opportunity to find the gaps for accessibility. While the teams need to plan the remediating roadmap, the concentrated effort is required to include accessibility in new features and screens.

Conclusion

Digital accessibility is just not important, it is essential. While accessibility makes tasks easy for everyone it makes them possible for persons with disabilities. This business case for digital accessibility may support you in including digital accessibility to the product life cycle. Any feedback, points to add for the next version can be pointed to

 

hello@maxability.co.in

 

or use the

 

contact form

 

.

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Published by Maxability

Rakesh Paladugula is a dedicated accessibility enthusiast with wide experience on all forms of digital accessibility. He is a trainer, mentor, advisor, advocate and evangelist. He believes in the modern socio-scientific world digital accessibility is a fundamental right of every citizen including those who have disabilities, low literacy and are from economically backward.

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