Digital Accessibility as an Investment for the Future
Failing to design accessible digital touchpoints can lead to high costs for companies, as well as reputational, legal, and safety damages for individuals.
Today, a growing number of services and information are available online, making digital accessibility crucial in ensuring the inclusion of everyone, including people with disabilities. However, accessibility is often overlooked during the design and development of digital products. This oversight causes difficulties for users with varying needs and limits a company's reach.
It's essential for companies to consider digital accessibility from the very outset of the design and development process. Incorporating accessible design from the beginning helps to avoid high costs and potential legal repercussions in the future, while also contributing to the creation of a successful and inclusive product.
Yet, a common approach today views accessibility as a "non-essential extra" to be added later.
The real cost of not designing accessible digital touchpoints
Drawing from our experience and insights from accessibility experts (like Karl Groves in "Understanding the Cost of Not Being Accessible"), we can undoubtedly state that leaving accessibility as an afterthought will never save money.
This is because, first, rectifying mistakes can be very costly.
Second, legal penalties for non-compliance with accessibility regulations can be steep.
Lastly, a lack of accessibility can lead to a loss of customers and harm the company's image.
Specifically, the cost of rectifying mistakes can be substantial, especially if accessibility issues are identified post-product launch. This might require hiring a team of specialists to correct these mistakes and ensure the product's full accessibility. However, even this might not be enough to offset potential legal repercussions and negative reputational impacts.
Non-compliance with accessibility regulations can result in heavy legal penalties, significantly affecting a company's financial health. For example, in the US, the Department of Justice has recently fined numerous companies for failing to meet accessibility standards. Regarding our home country, since June 28, 2022, there has been a mandatory accessibility requirement for private entities with an average turnover, over the last three years, exceeding five hundred million euros. All private subjects must comply with these regulations by June 28, 2025, with some exceptions allowing for a transitional period (source: Government Act 362 of February 28, 2022).
Moreover, neglecting accessibility can result in customer loss and damage to the company's image: people with disabilities influence the purchasing decisions of their families, friends, and communities. If a product or service is inaccessible, individuals with disabilities might choose not to buy it or opt for an accessible alternative. A lack of accessibility can tarnish the company's reputation, as it might be perceived as inattentiveness to customers' needs.
The benefits of investing in digital accessibility
So, what can be done to avoid these costs and ensure accessibility is an integral part of the design process?
The answer is straightforward: prioritize accessibility from the start.
It's not merely about penalties and reputation. Implementing accessibility from the beginning can positively influence other aspects, such as:
- Expanding your business by increasing your market share: by designing accessible products and services, companies can reach a broader audience, including users with disabilities.
- Driving innovation: encouraging the search for innovative solutions to meet the needs of a diverse user base. This can spark the creativity and inventiveness of the design team, leading to the development of unique, cutting-edge products and services that can attract even users without disabilities.
- Positioning yourself as a leader in your industry: Investing in digital accessibility and demonstrating a genuine commitment to inclusion can set your company apart as an industry leader. This can attract media attention, potential customers, and business partners, further enhancing your brand's reputation and credibility.
Best practices for digital accessibility
To ensure digital accessibility, we recommend following some best practices during the design and development phases, like:
- Involving users with disabilities in the design process: obtaining feedback from people with various needs helps identify and resolve potential accessibility issues.
- Adhering to international standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): these standards provide specific criteria and techniques to ensure the accessibility of digital products.
- Using tools and technologies to test accessibility: utilizing both automated and manual tools to test accessibility can help detect and fix any issues before a product's launch.
Digital accessibility represents a fundamental investment for the future of companies.
Incorporating it from the onset of the design and development process ensures the creation of quality, inclusive products and services and ensures long-term success. Companies that choose to invest in digital accessibility show their commitment to meeting the needs of all customers and position themselves as industry leaders, ready to tackle future challenges.
If you wish to design an accessible product or service from the beginning or need to improve the accessibility of an existing digital offering, please contact us. We specialize in assisting companies in creating and optimizing accessible and inclusive digital solutions. We'd be delighted to hear about your needs and collaborate with you on your project, aiming to make the digital ecosystem more accessible and inclusive for all.