Honor commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Designing for ability-based differences is core to a solid DEI strategy, and this includes making sure digital products are accessible. Most companies aren’t getting this right: Only 27% of firms tell Forrester they are following through on a top-down commitment to digital accessibility. By getting accessibility right, your company stands to earn a competitive advantage.
Avoid legal risk arising from a lack of accessibility. Consumers increasingly hold businesses accountable when websites and apps aren’t accessible. According to an annual report from UsableNet, more than 4,000 lawsuits were expected by the end of 2021. If you’re a retailer, you should be concerned: More than 66% of Internet Retailer’s Top 500 retailers were named in an accessibility lawsuit in the past two years.
Win contracts. At least $10 billon in design spending in the U.S. and Canada will shift to tech vendors and services companies that commit to accessibility. This is because firms expect their vendors to help them stay accessible and compliant. Organizations should expect to see accessibility increasingly show up as a requirement in RFPs and contract renewals increasingly in 2022.
Seizing the digital accessibility opportunity can seem like a daunting task despite its high promise. Here are some steps to help get organizations started:
Define your accessibility policy
Your policy should state what standards the company is committed to meeting, which for most organizations is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines at Level AA conformance. These guidelines are the globally recognized standard for digital accessibility, and they are technology agnostic, applying to websites, native mobile apps, software applications and even PDFs. Your policy should also state which digital experiences are covered and provide a plan for how you’ll get there.
Evaluate existing websites and apps
Start with your most important ones, applying a user experience mindset by focusing on features and screens that align with the top tasks your customers come to you to complete. From there, begin prioritizing what needs to be fixed to bring those experiences in line with your policy. Most companies hire an accessibility consultancy, such as Deque or Level Access, to help with these initial current-state evaluations.
Secure support across leadership
Building digital accessibility into how you design and build products requires commitment from all departments involved, including development, QA, product management, marketing and design. This means you need support from the C-suite. Pitch the business case for accessibility to an executive who holds the purse strings and can champion your efforts. Consider the funding you’ll need for audits of existing experiences and training of designers, content authors and developers.
Educate and inspire employees
Every employee must understand and make accessibility part of how they do their job. Start by helping employees understand what accessibility is and why it’s important—because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s good for business. Inspire employees to act by telling the stories of employees and customers who’ve suffered exclusion because experiences weren’t accessible. Better yet, have those people share their own stories.
Emulate organizations that get accessibility right
Take a cue from organizations that have long followed a proactive approach to accessibility and have published their methods. Use IBM’s open source Equal Access Toolkit as a model when defining how you’ll integrate accessibility into each stage of product development. Apply Microsoft’s inclusive design principles and tools to prioritize accessibility in design by drawing on the full range of human diversity.
By taking these steps, organizations will be well on their way to advancing accessibility as part of their operations. You’re likely to meet some resistance from partners who view accessibility as “yet another thing we have to do.” The best advice I can give you is to show those colleagues how accessibility helps everyone, including them. Ultimately, when we prioritize digital accessibility, we’re helping our current and future selves.
Don’t miss the latest news. Sign up for Ad Age newsletters here.