Accessibility and Your Business Strategy

In the tech industry, contractors are frequently hired for specific skills and services they can bring to an organization. They provide access to skills not ordinarily found. As specialty recruiters, we know the best contractors have a wealth of experience across multiple projects, companies, and sectors, and these experiences result in highly valued expertise.

Recently, UX professionals and other front-end experts staffed through our recruitment services are embracing inclusive and accessible design skills as a specialty. In fact, accessibility skills are the number one trend for client-side delivery in 2018.

In this blog, we'll explore the basics of accessibility and what it means to your business or product strategy.

What is Accessibility?

Assistive technology and tools help people with disabilities have access to the same products and services as the rest of the population. “Accessibility” simply refers to adjustments web content designers and developers implement in their code to function properly with assistive devices. This technology can be hardware, like screen readers or head pointers, or software, like magnifiers or voice-over-text.

People with disabilities are not recognized formally as a minority group, but if they were, they would be 19% of the population, which would also make them the largest minority group in the United States (source).

As assistive technology improves and adoption rate increases, so has the adoption of accessibility integration. Because of this growth, accessibility standards were developed to foster a unified experience for users of assistive technology. The primary guideline for accessible design – The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – was developed and is maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The latest version (2.1) of their guide was just released this month (source).

But why is accessibility important to your business? Let’s explore:

Benefits Everyone; Hurts No One

Obviously users of assistive technology have an improved experience with applications that accommodate their special tools, and those accommodations are largely undetectable to those not using any assistive technology. However, the best practices for implementing accessibility standards involve automation enhancements, which are generally preferable to all users. In fact, accessible web pages are consistently rated higher in usability tests because they are so lightweight and efficient (source). They have to be, in order to interact properly with screen readers and other assistive tools. Lightweight pages are faster to download, and simplified information architecture makes a site easier to navigate. Another accessibility feature with growing popularity is facial recognition. Also, accessibility standards for text styling results in content displays that are considered easier to read across user profiles.

Risk Averse and Compliance Ready

Legal requirements for meeting accessibility standards are being adopted all over the globe, and regulations are likely to become stricter over time. This is because of the aging population in regions with the highest rate of personal technology use. By 2020, the number of people over 65 is expected to be 30% in Japan, 20% in Europe, and 16% in the US (source).

While it’s unfair to say that age equals disability, prevalence of sight and hearing impairment do increase with age. So, companies willfully neglecting to make accommodations for a significant portion of their users or customers can expect an increased vulnerability for discrimination claims and lawsuits – a costly risk. For example, Target Corporation settled a class action lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind in August 2008 and agreed to pay class damages of $6 million for accessibility-related claims (source).

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

Prioritizing accessibility in your product strategy is not just about saving time and money – it’s about growing your market. For instance, as accessibility policies are adopted in government institutions and educational systems, the demand for services that support these policies - and products to help them adopt or integrate - grows in tandem. Businesses able to provide these verticals with accessibility-compliant solutions have an advantage.

Furthermore, the aging populations mentioned above are 17 times wealthier than younger generations, meaning they have more expendable income (source). This probably explains why mobile screen reader use has increased by 70% in just five years (source). Product development strategy that is updated to respond to the changing needs of older generations have the highest chance of capitalizing on the economy as is shifts.

If your company is hiring UX designers, UI developers, and other technology professionals who have experience implementing accessibility standards, contact us!