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8 reasons why businesses need to care about inclusive design

By
Zoe Portlock
Zoe Portlock is a Senior Accessibility Experience Designer. She explains the business case for inclusive design.

My area of inclusive design is accessibility. I lead accessibility at Hargreaves Lansdown, a FTSE100 financial services company. I bring my own lived experience of accessibility needs to this role. And help people to understand how users with access needs experience the world.

My role involves introducing and delivering accessibility at every stage. I do this across our organisation’s processes, products and services.

I’ve spent years perfecting the ultimate business case for an urgent commitment to accessibility. And I’m happy to share this with you!

Here are my 8 reasons, split into 2 categories of opportunity and risks:

Opportunity

While there are serious legal consequences to consider. Let’s begin with the opportunities that accessibility brings. Focussing on real people’s experiences can be far more powerful.

It’s important to give your customers a voice and to listen to their stories. Hearing from disabled people can be very impactful. Especially hearing their frustration when services don’t meet their access needs.

1) Broader audience and preparing for an ageing population

In the UK 1 in 5 people are disabled, with that figure growing to 1 in 2 adults at age 65.

That’s 14 million people. A huge minority who are traditionally underserved and excluded.

Committing to accessibility opens your products or services to another 20% of the population. It also helps to prepare for your customer’s future access needs, which are more likely as we all age.

The spending power of disabled households in the UK each year totals £279 billion. This is known as The Purple Pound. UK businesses lose approximately £2 billion a month by ignoring the needs of disabled people. There’s so much to gain.

Purple Pound research

2) Loyalty

If you build a reputation for being accessible, the loyalty potential is huge.

The Click-Away Pound’s research shows us that people prioritise accessibility over pricing. And fewer barriers can increase their spending and keep them coming back.

85% of users with access needs limit their shopping to sites known to be barrier-free.

81% of users will choose a service that is more accessible over one with competitive pricing.

86% of users would spend more if there were fewer access barriers.

Click-Away Pound research

3) Changes to your internal culture

Communicating your company’s commitment to accessibility has huge value. Accessibility not only benefits your customers, but also your internal culture.

It’s important to acknowledge that some colleagues will also have accessibility needs.

Applying accessibility best practice can also improve your internal emails, presentations, and events. What employer doesn’t want an inclusive workplace?

4) Usability and Customer Experience

Accessibility best practice is essential for some, but useful for all. At its core, accessibility is about usability. It’s about meeting the diverse needs of all your customers. It helps ensure clear journeys and direct communication. It gives each person equal access to your services and good outcomes.

Planning for accessibility makes sure your services or products are usable by everyone. Disabled people or those with access needs should get the same experience as anyone else.

Experiencing barriers over and over whilst trying to navigate daily life has an emotional impact. An impact that should not be underestimated. Your company should make it easy for your customers to complete tasks independently. And they should be able to choose their preferred platform. Just like your other customers do.

Risks and Consequences

Organisations also need to understand the risks and consequences of not doing accessibility. These points can help get organisations to really commit to accessibility.

5) Regulatory Sanctions

For Financial Services, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has new requirements. This is called Consumer Duty. This means firms must act to deliver good outcomes for all types of customers.

A robust accessibility presence will be compulsory. Accessibility is a core requirement to meeting this duty. If you don’t prepare, your company will face sanctions.

Since 2018, the public sector has had legislation for formal accessibility requirements. This applies to any web and mobile applications.

This show more industries could have similar regulations introduced in the future. This leads on to…

6) Legal action

Under the Equality Act 2010, any company can be sued for not giving an equal experience to disabled users. The numbers of these in the US are significant. In 2020 there were over 3,500 digital accessibility lawsuits raised in the US.

These well-known names have all faced accessibility lawsuits:

  • FedEx
  • Netflix
  • Domino’s
  • Target
  • Nike
  • Burger King
  • even Beyoncé!

7) Reputational damage

As you can imagine, legal cases can cause serious reputational damage. Domino’s lawsuit escalated to the US Supreme Court and lasted 5 years. This had significant and ongoing levels of negative media attention.

8) “Technical debt”

“Technical debt” is the cost your business faces by going back to fix problems, when you could have built it to be accessible from the start.

Have you already started your company’s accessibility journey? If so, you might be looking to include accessibility into your product lifecycle.

Reviewing accessibility at the end of the product lifecycle can take much longer to fix. It can also be harder to do. It’s far better to build it into every step of your work cycle.

To avoid this, it can help to create a business case to review accessibility throughout. Not just after an accessibility audit at the end.

You can do this by outlining the resource you’ll need to fix accessibility errors after the audit. As well as looking the potential impact. For example, not being able to fix an accessibility issue that means going back to make major changes.

If you build Accessibility needs into your research, your designing, and your coding then it will be in place already.

So, there you have it! 8 arguments for any business to invest in accessibility.

Contributor: Zoe Portlock
Organisation: Senior Accessibility Experience Designer at Hargreaves Lansdown

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