Accessibility is one of the most underestimated areas in software development but it is key for users, companies and society. We are going to see what it is and why we should pay more attention to it.
Imagine you had an accident or a stroke and your vision or one of your arms were damaged, or that one of your children was born with learning or hearing problems. Can you imagine how would be your lives if you couldn’t do usual activities like managing your bank accounts or buying a flight ticket and had to ask for help every time you need it? And what will happen when you get older, do you want to depend on others to do your day-to-day tasks for you?
Unfortunately, this has been the reality for many people, mostly now that our habits are changing and we have been forced to do many activities online. Many associations are pushing companies to make their websites and applications accessible so those with disabilities can fully use their services, but sometimes it slips to the end of the backlog or is an afterthought. And some engineering teams don’t even know they have to consider it or where to start, so we should talk more about it to increase awareness.
What are the benefits of investing in accessibility for your business?
Let’s think first about the numbers as they may help you decide how it impacts your business. How many potential customers do you think you could lose if your services are not fully accessible? Hundreds, thousands, maybe a bit more? Only in the UK, it is estimated around 20% of the adult working population has any disability and in total there are 14 million approx (link). If we look globally it is around one billion people. Imagine if you could reach all those extra customers and ensure they are happy with you and don’t choose one of your competitors instead. Have I grabbed your attention? I hope so
I guess you wonder if that’s true. How can that be possible if we don’t usually see that many people with disabilities? Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean people don’t have them, as many of them are not visible and are kept secret. And even successful people like Daniel Radcliffe, Elton John or Richard Branson have them (link), they just have found a way to overcome their challenging situations and succeed without most people noticing.
Think not only about how many new customers you can reach directly but also how much they can recommend your services to their network and the possible alliances with different associations that can promote you to their members.
Apart from the number, consider also their quality. One of the biggest challenges for companies is client loyalty, as many of us move to other providers when we see an offer no matter the loyalty tricks offered like points or discount cards. However, people with disabilities are said to be more loyal due to the challenges of finding another supplier that makes it easy to use their applications.
And in case you don’t know it, you can also save money in high fines (like this one to Domino’s) and the impact of bad reputation, being both higher than doing a few small tweaks on your website. It sounds like a no-brainer, no?
And the benefits for your existing or potential customers?
They will felt valued as they will be able to communicate and will see that you think about them and their needs. They will be independent and empowered as they will be able to do what they want when they want without depending on anyone. They won’t feel discriminated against or frustrated as they will be able to do the same as everyone else, which should be a given but this is not always the case. And they will be able to access jobs they couldn’t before if the tools used at work are prepared for their needs.
And for society?
We live in a more inclusive, diverse and global world than before and it is key that we can communicate and cooperate with each other. Do you imagine if you could not chat with your friends? This has already happened to Telegram users as blind people couldn’t use it some months ago. Or if great professionals couldn’t apply to jobs they are prepared to? Not to mention the insecurities they would have before the job interviews. This is already happening when the application websites are not prepared for them. Or if they couldn’t order some food online? This is also happening as some companies like Domino’s were not prepared and blind people couldn’t order. So, it is not just about money, it is also important to make the world a better place for everyone.
Accessibility is key to ensure we have a better society in which everyone can be independent and reach their full potential without depending on others. Investing in it will be beneficial for your business due to the high ROI (return on investment) that can be soon multiplied.
Do you want to learn more?
I want to learn more and publish other posts about the different types of disabilities, what tools and techniques can be used to adapt the applications, and how development teams can adapt their processes so accessibility is as important as security or functional testing. I hope you find them interesting.
NB: I learnt most of this from Rocio Calvo who has a PhD in accessibility. You can learn more from her here