In the United States, Canada, and many other nations, employers have a legal responsibility to provide “reasonable accommodations" for employees and customers with disabilities. Unfortunately, many organizations fail to take the necessary steps: Each business hour in 2021 a separate lawsuit was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for alleged digital accessibility failures.
Employers often cite the high cost of accommodations when defending against lawsuits under the ADA Title III or other non-discrimination laws. However, that argument isn’t accurate — it’s based on the enduring myth that the expense of accommodations outweigh the benefits.
In a 2020 survey from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, employers reported low costs for most accommodations. Some key facts from the survey:
- Of 1,029 employers who submitted cost information related to the accommodations they had provided, 56% said that accommodations for employees cost absolutely nothing.
- Only 4% of respondents said that accommodations resulted in an ongoing, annual cost to the organization.
- Of accommodations that required a one-time cost, the median expenditure was $500.
- 75% of employers who made changes reported that the accommodations were “very effective" or “extremely effective.”
In the survey, employers who made accommodations reported numerous direct benefits as a result of the improvements. Accommodations improved employee retention and productivity, limited training expenditures, and increased company morale.
Digital Accessibility and Employment Accommodations
There’s a reason that employers make efforts to accommodate employees with disabilities, and it’s not just a legal obligation. A systematic review published in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation found that organizations who hired people with a diverse range of abilities saw improvements in profitability, customer loyalty, and employee loyalty along with numerous other benefits.
In recent years, digital accessibility has become crucial for maintaining an inclusive work culture. One Brookings Institution study found that 90% of all jobs in the United States economy require the use of digital tools. Just as employers need to make physical accommodations for employees with disabilities, every organization has a responsibility to provide accessible digital tools for their entire workforce.
And organizations that fail to prioritize accessibility miss out on an important revenue stream. More than 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability, and situational disabilities affect nearly everyone.
Accessible website design can drive brand loyalty, improve public relations, and reduce the long-term costs of maintenance. Most importantly, the best practices of website accessibility improve the on-page experience for everyone, not just those with disabilities.
Embracing Digital Accessibility at Your Organization
The goal of digital accessibility is to create content that is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust (the POUR principles). When content is aligned with these principles, it’s more useful for both customers and employees.
For many employers, adopting digital accessibility seems like an expensive challenge. In one Forrester study (PDF) commissioned by Microsoft, 31% of respondents said that “high costs" were the most significant barrier for providing accessible technologies, while another 26% cited “lack of funding available" as the most significant barrier.
Fortunately, that’s another myth. The same study found that the benefits of accessible technologies outweighed the costs significantly through lower maintenance costs, improved productivity, and a wider pool of potential customers.
In short, digital accessibility is an investment, not a cost. If you’re building a digital accessibility policy for your business, you can maximize your return on investment by starting as early as possible — and by using existing resources to set goals and check your progress.
Finding Resources When Creating a Digital Accessibility Policy
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) include clear guidance for establishing accessibility goals and implementing improvements. By focusing on the POUR principles, the guidelines help teams understand why improvements affect users, which allows designers, content creators, and developers to make better decisions.
The Bureau of Internet Accessibility can help your organization meet WCAG recommendations and develop a sustainable approach to digital accessibility. With onsite training programs, self-paced courses, and expert-guided accessibility audits, we offer the necessary resources to start embracing accessibility — and to start enjoying the benefits.
To learn more, contact our team or visit our accessibility compliance roadmap.