With over 14 years of experience in UX design, strategy, and training, Jennifer Chadwick is the Senior Digital Accessibility Consultant for Siteimprove. At Sitecore Symposium 2022, she shared her passion for digital accessibility in her presentation, “Building your undeniable business case for an inclusive strategy.”

Digital accessibility begins with the conviction that websites can be perceived, operated, and fully understood, without barriers, by people of all abilities and disabilities. Inclusive design is the natural accomplice to digital accessibility as it approaches UX design, keeping  the preferences, needs, and abilities of all users top of mind.

The Microsoft accessibility tool kit, seen below, is a great schema for understanding the accessibility challenges people face.

Note that some may only have an accessibility challenge for a short time, while others may have a challenge for life.

While IBM began the movement with screen-reading software over 30 years ago, in the last several decades, many others have taken the baton — creating everything from screen-magnification software to video relay services.

A need and an opportunity

Over 3 billion people with disabilities use technology to access the internet across the world each day. Not only do they have the legal right to access online information, products, and customer services — they also have money to spend.

The disability market is, in fact, larger than China. It includes 1.85 billion people with $1.9 trillion in annual disposable income. Jennifer shared other stats that reveal the opportunity:

  • 83% of users with access needs limit their shopping to sites they know are barrier-free
  • 86% of users with access needs would spend more if there were fewer barriers
  • 75% of users with access needs feel accessibility is more important when making spending decisions than price
  • 63% of users prefer to buy from socially responsible companies
  • Forrester predicts that $10 billion in design spending will shift to vendors and services that commit to accessibility after 2022

Organizations that make accessibility central not only fulfill their legal and humane obligations but will take market share away from those who don’t as the disability market continually emerges.

For those who are still skeptical of the business value, a short consideration of the leaders in this space should be enough to push them over the cynical hump — Apple, Microsoft, Google, BBC, Barclays, etc. There’s even a club that businesses can join when they commit to disability inclusion: The Valuable 500.

A business trend? A financial opportunity? A humane obligation? A legal right? No matter the angle one views it from, digital accessibility is critical today.

What can we do?

Each day, millions of people use assistive technologies and adaptive strategies to empower themselves and maintain agency and autonomy. The goal for all organizations should be to ensure we and our websites aren’t the barriers.

One aspect is changing the narrative in our own minds and in the broader culture — moving from a medical to a social model of disability.

In the medical model, the individual with a disability is the problem. They need to figure out how to fit into society as it is. In contrast to this, the social model understands that the barrier is society, which has been exclusive, not the individual.

According to the 2022 WebAIM Million Survey, only 5% of the world’s websites are accessible. With a clearer understanding of inaccessibility as a societal problem, we can see we all have a role to play in fixing it.

From a business perspective, digital accessibility must become an essential aspect of UX design, not a second thought. For some, this may seem a daunting task. Fortunately, Jennifer offered insight into where we can begin:

  • Ask what barriers we are currently putting in place
  • Use empathy to shape UX
  • Up-skill roles with training and support
  • Develop and implement governance systems
  • Just start! (It’s okay to not be perfect)
  • Don’t be afraid to publicize your work

And there’s more good news — Jennifer can help. She partners with organizations to ensure their websites are accessible to all. Explore some of her work here, or follow her on LinkedIn.

1 The Click Away Pound Survey 2019, found at http://www.clickawaypound.com/

Dan Olson is the Senior Copywriter at Sitecore. Follow him on LinkedIn.