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8 Things the C-Suite Needs to Know About Accessibility

Aug 1, 2019

Accessibility refers to the practice of making products, services, devices, and environments accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.

In order to be successfully adopted across the organization, accessibility can’t be limited to the lower rungs of the business — it needs to be supported by executives in the C-suite as well.

Here 8 of the most important things that executives need to know about accessibility.

1. Accessibility starts with you

Like other organization-wide initiatives, accessibility must receive full buy-in from executives in order to reach its maximum potential. A commitment to accessibility from the top means that the topic will get the visibility and prioritization it requires, and this attention will trickle down throughout the business.

Raising awareness, creating an accessibility statement, and investing in training and education programs are good ways to make accessibility a priority. It’s can also be wise to join forces with third-party consultants and nonprofits who may have more ideas about how to improve accessibility at your organization.

2. The lack of accessibility could mean legal trouble

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires federal and state governments and “places of public accommodation,” such as restaurants and retailers, to be accessible to people with disabilities. Although the ADA does not explicitly address website accessibility, judges have repeatedly interpreted the law to apply to both physical and digital presence.

Over the past several years, the number of lawsuits regarding website accessibility has increased dramatically, from 814 in 2017 to over 2,250 in 2018. High-profile lawsuits, such as those against the tech company Apple and the singer Beyoncé, claim that the websites in question are not sufficiently accessible to users with visual disabilities who use screen reader software.

To avoid the risks of ADA demand letters, complaints, and time-consuming lawsuits, organizations should bring their websites in compliance with digital accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

3. Accessibility is important for privacy and security

Making your website accessible helps people with disabilities keep their sensitive and confidential information private and secure.

If people with disabilities aren’t able to navigate your website independently, many of them may ask for assistance from those around them: family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and even strangers. However, this may force them to reveal personal data such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and fraud.

What’s more, the lack of website accessibility leaves people with disabilities more prone to user error that can breach their privacy: for example, entering a sensitive piece of information into the wrong text field on a form. Web accessibility standards like WCAG have criteria for error identification that require websites to detect input errors and provide a text-based description of the problem.

It’s for reasons like these that accessibility is an important part of privacy and security.

4. You have customers with disabilities

An often-cited statistic from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 1 in 4 U.S. adults are living with some form of disability. With so much of the population included in that figure, it’s a near-guarantee that your customer base contains many people with disabilities. 

Unfortunately, there are still a number of common myths about web accessibility that cause customers with disabilities to be ignored: for example, the belief that people with disabilities don’t use computers. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans with disabilities have used the Internet, and 50 percent use it on a daily basis.

5. Your competitors are taking accessibility seriously

Even if you don’t pay attention to accessibility, it’s a near-certainty that some of your competitors will — and if you don’t take the matter seriously, your customers may choose to patronize their business instead.

62 percent of customers say that they want companies to take a stand on issues that are important to them, while nearly half (47 percent) are willing to walk away from a company that has disappointed them. 

According to the “Click-Away Pound” survey, 71 percent of customers with disabilities in the United Kingdom will leave an insufficiently accessible website, representing a purchasing power of £11.75 billion ($14.5 billion). Conversely, 82 percent are more likely to return to a business that has an accessible website.

6. Accessibility is important to your brand and public perception

Your company’s “brand” is anything that differentiates you from your competitors: things like logos, color schemes, messaging, value proposition, and business philosophy. The best brands are capable of generating unique thoughts and feelings among your customers that inspire them to try your products and services and keep coming back to your business.

Digital accessibility benefits your brand in multiple ways. First, accessibility ensures that a larger audience can have a positive interaction with your brand in the first place. In addition, if social responsibility is part of your company’s brand, then announcing your commitment to accessibility is another way to connect with customers who share your brand values.

7. Accessibility is important to your employees

It’s not just your customers who want to patronize a business that highlights accessibility — your employees care about the issue as well. Whether they have a disability themselves or they have loved ones with a disability, many of your employees have personal reasons to care about the cause of accessibility.

Prioritizing accessibility for your business will attract those who prioritize the causes of people with disabilities in their own lives as well. Employees are happier working at a company that aligns with their values and does what they believe to be right.

8. Accessibility benefits the bottom line

Beyond the advantages discussed above, there are many other ways in which accessibility benefits your bottom line:

  • Including alternative text for the images on your website not only helps people with visual disabilities, it also helps search engines like Google index your content.
  • By improving accessibility, people with disabilities will be less likely to leave your website, lowering your bounce rate and increasing your conversions.
  • Accessibility is part of usability; making your website more accessible will improve the user experience for all visitors.

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