After decades of increasing regulations and lawsuits, it’s very clear that accessibility is not a niche or minor concern for employers. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in that 56.7 million people in the United States — 19 percent of the country’s population — are living with a disability. What’s more, only 41 percent of working-age adults with a disability were employed, compared with 79 percent of those with no disability.
People with disabilities represent a major opportunity for employers. Fortunately, both employers and job candidates stand to benefit from websites with accessible design in multiple ways.
Deeper Talent Pool
Businesses that fail to make their website accessible are therefore failing to capitalize on a major talent pool — as mentioned above, nearly a fifth of the population are living with a disability. If a recruiting website isn’t fully accessible to job seekers with disabilities, many of them will have a negative impression of the employer and choose not to apply, believing that their presence would be less than welcome in the workplace. Of course, many others might simply be unable to apply on the difficult-to-navigate website.
Although it’s difficult to know how many candidates with disabilities have been repelled by an inaccessible website, it’s clear that inaccessibility has negative repercussions for a company’s profit margins. According to the 2016 Click-Away Pound Survey, British online retailers lost an estimated £11.75 billion in sales ($15.1 billion) in a single year due to disabled shoppers leaving their website.
As the massive baby boomer generation ages in the U.S., its members are facing rising disability levels, including changes that affect vision, hearing, and cognition. Employers that make strides to accommodate older Americans with disabilities through initiatives such as accessible websites will be better positioned to hire and retain quality talent in the coming years.
Having an accessible website also prevents organizations from being subject to expensive litigation due to inadequate compliance. In 2006, for example, retail giant Target faced a class action lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind because its website was insufficient for use with screen reading technology. The suit resulted in a $6 million settlement.
Since 2015, there have been more than 240 lawsuits against businesses for website inaccessibility. Companies who incorporate accessibility into their website design from the outset will ultimately save money and fare better than those who add it later, either voluntarily or through litigation.
A Better Workplace
Beyond their immediate benefits of reaching greater talent and reducing expenses, accessible websites can also have a variety of peripheral advantages. Companies that visibly commit to accessibility efforts also enjoy a more positive internal and external image.
A 2016 Forrester study found that at least three-quarters of organizations with an accessibility strategy saw numerous benefits in having such a proactive stance. A large majority of these organizations agreed that accessibility helped them to create a social vision for their company, retain employees with disabilities, and boost all employees’ morale.
Having an accessible website is beneficial for everyone involved: employers, employees, candidates, and consumers. By making their websites accessible, businesses can draw from a deeper talent pool and serve as a positive symbol of inclusion and innovation.