As the pandemic continues to shift life from offline to online, opportunities abound for developers and companies to set themselves apart with world-class accessible virtual conferencing. With 91% of CEOs agreeing that business travel will likely become less frequent, replaced with video conferencing after the pandemic, these shifts may become permanent.
Video conferencing is now one of the primary means by which mean companies conduct business, communicate, and facilitate meetings and conferences. The industry is booming around the world as a result. For example, video conferencing apps DingTalk and VooV Meeting (PDF) landed in the top 20 most downloaded App Store apps globally in the first quarter of 2020, coming in at 6th and 12th, respectively.
In Europe, both Skype and Zoom were among the most downloaded apps. Zoom in particular performed well in the first quarter of 2020, coming in 7th in worldwide app downloads, 10th in global Google Play downloads, and third in app downloads in the U.S and in the App Store globally. The company is now expanding into hardware with the recent announcement of a new 27-inch touchscreen device designed for remote work.
As demand for video conferencing increases, so will opportunities to integrate accessibility into newly developed software and hardware.
So, what’s the big deal about accessible video conferencing? Companies open themselves up to a variety of risks when accessibility is either an afterthought or left out altogether. Here’s what to consider.
The benefits are many
It’s no coincidence that the most popular video conferencing app is also often a favorite for accessibility. Accessible video conferencing software can help companies stay ahead of the curve because of the inclusive and robust experience it provides. Employees can conduct business in a dignified manner that makes them feel valued. It also saves companies time and money. Virtual sessions are more productive when everyone is able to equally participate.
Accessible apps and website also tend to include cleaner code that is less likely to break or malfunction. The content itself is organized in a way that allows for a more consistent and intuitive experience. These features benefit all users, which in turn enables companies to meet the needs of customers and employees and attract future talent.
It’s important to consider that employees, clients, vendors, and customers may not always tell you what they need for fear of discrimination or other reasons. It’s better to anticipate digital accessibility needs, rather than lose a valued prospect to a competitor.
The risks are steep
Inaccessible video conferencing can present a liability to companies and employers. It can prevent users with disabilities from joining meetings, communicating, and completing work. For example, if video screens are only constructed to recognize a person speaking, a person who uses sign language will not be tagged as a speaker and will not be recognized when trying to communicate. When customers and employees can’t use a product as intended due to a disability, companies put themselves at risk of being branded as discriminatory and subjected to accessibility lawsuits.
They also risk alienating the public as Twitter did with its most recent audio tweet blunder. In a world where a company’s reputation quickly spreads on social media, digital accessibility provides an opportunity to make that reputation a good one.