The Importance of Accessibility in the Digitization of... Everything

April 7, 2020

The digitization of the world around us continues to move forward at a rapid pace. It has brought convenience to our daily tasks, communication, education, and work. Along with the growth of everything digital is the importance of the accessibility of everything digital, which will allow everyone to reap the benefits of this digital transformation. As we build the digital world, we have the obligation and opportunity right now to make it accessible to people with disabilities, just as we have been doing with the physical world since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

5 Ways to quantify the digital transformation

Mobile and smartphones

In 2019, the number of people using mobile phones was predicted to exceed 5 billion. Mobile phone usage continues to grow. Back In 2016, it was estimated that 62.9% of the world population owned a mobile phone, and in 2019 the number was expected to jump to about 67%. Looking specifically at smartphones, estimates had the total number of users reaching 2.7 billion by 2019.

In the United States, 81% of people now own a smartphone (and 96% of 18-to 29-year-olds do).

If accessibility isn't part of mobile CX, testing, and compliance strategies, the legal and opportunity risks are tremendous.

Further reading: Don't Overlook iOS and Android Testing for Accessibility

Banking and financial services

Forecasts indicated that the number of users of digital banking in 2019 was set to exceed 161 million in the United States, which is more than a 20% increase during the past five years.

Consumers now prefer to bank digitally. A Provident Bank survey found that only 20% of participants wanted to visit a physical bank location rather than do their banking through digital channels. The increased use of mobile phones has contributed toward the shift. Banking digitally allows users to bank within their own schedules instead of traveling to a physical location during operating hours.

The importance of digital accessibility in banking can't be overstated. People's lives and livelihoods can be closely tied to financial services, and everyone, of course, needs to be able to access them. Further, financial abuse disproportionately targets people with disabilities; when people have to rely on the help of others instead of completing digital tasks independently, that risk increases further.

Further reading: Accessibility Is Privacy and Security

Online Education

About a third of all college students are taking at least one online course. A survey conducted by the Babson Survey Research group found an increase in distance learning enrollments for the fourteenth straight year in 2016. A Learninghouse and Aslanian Market Research survey showed that eventually one-third of college students will study online, one-third on campus, and one-third studying both online and on campus. Online degrees are becoming more popular and accepted more readily.

Yet the accessibility of online education materials, as well as the public resources education institutions offer through their websites, remains lacking too often. If a PDF is not tagged to be accessible, for example, people who use certain assistive technologies will not be able to read it, or read it properly. If a video does not have captions, people who are deaf will not receive the spoken messages. These critical oversights persist in online education, but with awareness and diligence, this can change.

Further reading:

eCommerce

The ever-increasing presence of online home-delivery trucks alone should be evidence enough of the increase in eCommerce and online shopping. In 2019, 16% of total retail sales for the year came from online spending. And, online sales by U.S. merchants continued to grow, with a 14.9% increase from 2018 to 2019, exceeding the 13.6 % from 2017 to 2018.

This year, which is not usual, certainly, that number could likely be much higher, as people adjust their social and shopping habits, turning to online shopping even more due to COVID-19.

Further reading: Online Shopping and ADA Compliance: What You Need to Know

Healthcare

Patients are continuing to get more access to their health data through systems like patient portals. The type of information available to patients through portals are lab results, visit summaries, immunizations, allergies, and medications. In an ONC data brief, 52% of patients were given access to their medical records in 2017, rising from 42 percent in 2014.

Telemedicine is expected to continue growing as well. In 2018, the number of telemedicine patients was projected to be seven million. Virtual visits with doctors eliminate waiting times in offices and emergency rooms, and often come with lower copays than in-office visits. Patients, employers, insurance companies and the healthcare industry are becoming more accepting, and even demanding of telemedicine as technology advances.

Again, in the current times, the importance digital access to healthcare services is at an all-time high, and the numbers for this year will almost certainly skyrocket.

Further reading: How Web Accessibility Impacts Healthcare

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