Website accessibility can be an intimidating topic. From the different levels of compliance to the evolving standards of what it means to have an accessible website, there’s a lot to it. And most often when we’re hearing about website accessibility in the news it’s accompanied by a dreaded seven letter word: lawsuit.
But website accessibility, and further, website inclusivity is so much more than a cautionary tale around what can happen when your site isn’t up to code. There are tangible strategic benefits for companies to embrace inclusive design principles to make their digital experiences as accessible as possible. We’ve pulled four business cases from our whitepaper on the future of accessibility that prove having an accessible website is simply good business.
Accessible Websites Perform Better
Accessible websites perform better for everyone, not just those with disabilities. Studies show that accessible sites have better search results, they reach a bigger audience, they’re SEO friendly, have faster download times, they encourage good coding practices, and they almost always have better usability.
There is a lot of overlap between accessibility best practices and general coding perspective, with HTML in particular. If your site is built well technically, search engine bots are able to navigate it and understand its content easier, resulting in better search engine rankings.
According to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), screen readers crawl pages much as search engines do. So if your business site meets the WCAG standard, it will be equally appealing to screen readers, voice assistants, search engines and users alike.
Catering to a Growing Demographic of Those With Disabilities
An essential step that all businesses must reach is clear understanding of who their customers are. A common assumption is that people with disabilities only make up a tiny fraction of one’s customer base.
In fact, a 2018 report from the U.S. CDC found that 25% of adults have some form of disability. With over 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide (with a spending power of more than $6 trillion), having an accessible website or product just makes good business sense.
Inaccessible sites alienate this growing number of people with disabilities. Studies showed that 71% of people with disabilities will leave a website immediately if it’s not accessible. Failing to go above and beyond on accessibility to create inclusive experiences will increasingly push your customers toward competitors that meet their needs.
As a welcome effect of today’s emerging technologies, there is now a growing number of disabled people that will be able to enter the workplace over the next 10 years, with studies showing that this number could be as big as 350 million people. For businesses that build products that enable work environments, there will be increasing demand for these technologies to be accessible to this growing population of the workforce.
Avoiding Legal Risk
While avoiding legal risk is far from the only benefit of having an accessible website, it is one that can instill the greatest sense of urgency for company’s websites to comply with accessibility standards. For companies not committed to delivering an inclusive experience for all users, it’s no longer a question of if they will be sued, but when. At stake is whether everyone should be included in the digital economy, regardless of limitations, and regardless of whether the transition to accessible websites is challenging or costly for businesses.
And of course, there are barriers to building accessible sites. Organizations cite challenges around budgeting, development skills, and compliance monitoring as barriers to delivering accessible web designs. But in the years ahead, stronger enforcement will push brands to overcome these challenges. In fact, according to The State of Digital Accessibility 2019 report, 55% of survey participants said they are accelerating their accessibility plans due to the current litigation trends.When fostering conversations about website accessibility at your company, it is this risk that will propel this conversation forwards, as mitigating risk is a motive that everyone can get behind.
Be a First Mover On Accessibility
If there's one thing every company wants to be in 2020, it's "innovative". There is an intrinsic drive across industries for companies to be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Companies can still claim first mover status in fully embracing inclusive website design. By doing so they will be able to leverage accessibility and inclusive design as a competitive advantage, as they prove that they are committed to being inclusive of those with disabilities. We’re not just talking about meeting requirements: these are companies will need to go above and beyond to build accessible experiences. Not Impossible Labs is a great example of a company that built a radically accessible website to be inclusive of those with a wide range of disabilities.
Organizations that can prioritize accessibility are more likely to be innovative, inclusive enterprises that reach more people with positive brand messaging that meets emerging global legal requirements.
Forward-thinking companies will have to dramatically rethink their institutional approach to accessibility in order to manage risk and stay ahead of change. Companies that strive only to keep pace with current standards will find themselves in a constant, and costly, state of transition if they do not embrace a more holistic approach to inclusivity.
"By 2021, Early Adopter Brands That Redesign Their Websites to Support Visual and Voice Search Will Increase Digital Commerce Revenue By 30 Percent." -SECTION508.GOV
Looking forward we expect most organizations to embrace the business advantage of inclusive design. We will see large-scale adoption of universal accessibility as a core value of many leading companies, and regulatory standards as the starting point, not the finish line. Want to take a deeper dive into what's down the line for accessibility? Download our whitepaper “NECXT: The Future of Accessibility” to learn more.