Why Build Accessible Digital Products – and Why Now?

Written by Gareth Sully
June 24th 2020

3 minute read

Digital inclusion can deliver unparalleled value to citizens, communities and the economy through access to services that improve lives and offer opportunities for businesses and service providers alike. With more and more essential services rapidly moving online, it’s more important than ever to support those who either don’t have the skills, the access or are excluded through technology barriers that could be readily removed. Building accessible digital products and services must play a key part in this.  

One in five people in the UK have a disability or impairment. An inaccessible digital product or service will create a barrier that either excludes them or leaves them dependent on others. Making your digital product accessible is not just about being ‘seen’ to be ‘doing the right thing’, it also makes good brand and commercial sense. Why exclude a percentage of your potential customers by creating a barrier?

Here are six reasons why it’s more than just ‘the right thing to do’.

#1 – Strengthen brand perception
Your customers own your brand perception. It’s what they believe your product or service represents, not what you say it does. So, make a commitment to being credible by ensuring your digital products and services can be used by all your customers. Taking a positive approach towards accessibility will strengthen your brand perception, and make you more authentic, sincere and trusted as a result. It could also help you stay ahead of the competition.

#2 – Remove barriers to conversion
Removing any barriers will ensure your product can be used by as many people as possible – including those with disabilities. A good example of this is closed captions (text accompanying a video or other visual display that contains a transcription of speech and written descriptions of other relevant audio elements) which were created for people with hearing impairments, but they are also great for watching videos in a noisy environment. Maximising your audience will result in an increase of customers, conversions and ultimately sales (if that’s your game). The 4.3 million disabled online shoppers, who click away from inaccessible websites, have a combined spending power £11.75 billion in the UK. And these barriers effect those without disabilities too.

#3 – It’s a win for SEO
Accessibility can support higher search engine rankings and increase both the quality and quantity of your traffic and leads, alongside exposure to your brand. Although once seen as controversial – years back Google said that compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) did not improve search ranking – recent years have seen greater alignment between many of the good practice techniques of accessibility and SEO.

#4 – Addressing accessibility improves usability
There is a commonly held misconception that designing for optimal accessibility will result in an experience that is somehow less engaging, sophisticated and perhaps even a little boring. Accessible design doesn’t have to be like this, something that architects and industrial product designers have been championing for years. Accessibility, alongside usability, can and should be the foundation for a delightful experience for all.

#5 – It’s not as difficult as you may think
Another misconception is that it’s really difficult, and expensive, to build accessible websites. Designing a product from scratch, with accessibility built into the strategy from the start, shouldn’t cost any more. And although fixing a site that is already inaccessible requires effort, many costs are investments at an organisational level. The overwhelming majority are not doing this. An accessibility analysis of the top 1 million web sites’ home pages by WebAIM flagged that over 98% registered at least one failure against the WCAG standard. And the trend suggests that errors are slowly increasing over time.

#6 – It’s a duty, not an option
That’s true for all public sector bodies, who have a legal obligation under the Equality Act 2010 to make their digital services accessible. But what about everyone else? We believe that businesses – ours included – have a responsibility to make a positive contribution to the world. And provide equal opportunities for those with impairments or disabilities to be able to do the same. Focussing on accessibility does just that. It can create an experience that is equitable, that doesn’t discriminate or stigmatise, that is inclusive – and can help improve the everyday lives of your customers.

We are well practiced in building accessible digital products and services. Our Accessibility Audit will highlight opportunities and help build a strategy for improvement. If you feel that your organisation could benefit from this approach, please email us at hello@mmtdigital.co.uk.

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