If you’re advocating for digital accessibility, you’ll probably run into some resistance. Most stakeholders won’t say that accessibility isn’t important, but they’ll argue that it’s a minor concern, not a priority.
Depending on your industry, you might hear something like:
- “Our target audience doesn’t include people with disabilities, so it’s not a major issue.”
- “Improving accessibility would be too expensive.”
- “We should look into accessibility, but let’s stay focused on creating a good product.”
- “Accessibility features would ruin the design of our product.”
Each of these statements may sound reasonable at first glance — but when you understand the purpose, scope, and goals of digital accessibility, they’re not compelling arguments.
Here’s how to address resistance to a digital accessibility initiative (and become a more effective advocate for change).
1. “Our audience doesn’t include people with disabilities.”
If you hear this argument, we’d recommend citing a few statistics.
About 1 billion people worldwide have disabilities, including 1 in 4 U.S. adults. That number is expected to increase over the next few decades as the Baby Boomer generation ages.
It may be true that your product doesn’t appeal to any of those users — but if that’s the case, you should ask what you can do to change that perception. A product that doesn’t work for 25% of its potential customers needs improvement.
Related: Every Website Has Users with Disabilities — Make Sure You're Aware of Them
2. “Accessibility is expensive.”
Every investment carries a cost, and digital accessibility is no different. You’ll need to test your content against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standards for accessibility. You’ll also need to develop a remediation strategy and incorporate the principles of accessibility into your development process.
But with an accessibility-first mindset, most improvements can be implemented easily and inexpensively. Adding alternative text to images or adjusting color contrast ratios won’t consume many resources — particularly if you make those changes early.
If a stakeholder argues that accessibility is expensive, the best response is to highlight the business benefits, which include a larger audience, better brand positioning, and enhanced search engine optimization (SEO).
Related: Digital Accessibility Is an Investment, Not a Cost
3. “Accessibility is secondary; let’s focus on designing our product.”
Accessibility is part of the design process. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple treat accessibility as a priority, and for good reason: When products are designed inclusively, they work better for every user.
In the development lifecycle, your goal is to create an efficient, maintainable product that delivers a pleasant user experience. The best practices of accessibility are firmly aligned with these goals — and you can’t design a worthwhile digital product without considering the preferences, needs, and expectations of your users.
Related: Inclusive Design Starts with Accessibility
4. “Accessibility features would ruin our product’s design.”
It’s true that some accessibility improvements aren’t appropriate for every type of product. For example, if you’re designing a mobile app for artists, your product may require users to have visual perception — ensuring that the app works for screen reader users might not make much sense.
But WCAG success criteria are written for all types of digital products. Many criteria include exceptions for “essential functionality:” If a certain accessibility feature isn’t realistic, you don’t need to include it.
Of course, if you ignore WCAG entirely, you won’t know about these exceptions — and you’ll miss opportunities to build in other accessibility features that might be useful for your audience.
For example, a mobile app for artists may not be useful for folks with vision disabilities, but it may be quite useful for people with mobility disabilities. Certain improvements may make the product more useful for people who browse on smaller screens, or ensure that the app is functional when used in bright sunlight.
If you assume that WCAG doesn’t apply simply because you can’t meet a certain requirement, you’re leaving people out of the conversation.
Related: What Is Accessibility in Mobile Apps?
Advocating for digital accessibility pays dividends
You can become an effective advocate by working with an accessibility partner from the first stage of product design. An expert that understands WCAG can help you make the case for accessible design and form a practical strategy for testing, training, and remediation.
No website or mobile app is 100% accessible for everyone. However, when you treat accessibility as a core principle, you reach more people — and provide the best possible experience for every user, regardless of their abilities.
If you’re ready to get started, we’re here to help. Send us a message to connect with a subject matter expert.