Accessibility has become a significant focus area for our agency. Our service offerings in this category have grown from simple consultative services to comprehensive audits and remediation. Over the years, more and more organizations have made a commitment to accessibility. However, the reasons and motivations are always different. This week, I wanted to highlight why other customers have rededicated to this effort and discuss whether or not your organizations should focus on these matters, as well.
It's the Right Thing to Do
Let's set aside other concerns for a second and focus on the idea that digital accessibility is the right thing to do. Making our apps, websites, and other experiences accessible to those users who require assistance should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, many organizations overlook accessibility out of avoidance of what they consider inconvenient (and expensive). In truth, this isn't the primary reason that clients find us and acquire our services. The fact is, a well-rounded digital offering should always embrace the philosophy that digital properties should be usable by all people, regardless of their particular disabilities.
Sadly, frequently when mentioning this to clients, they glance past what's right and instead focus on other concerns. And I do understand their perspective – the cost-benefit calculation doesn't add up for many companies. Audits and remediation cost real dollars, and for a percentage of their userbase whom they deem (for lack of a better term) expendable.
If even as a secondary consideration, we'd like to see more clients realize that accessibility is the right thing to do and should be a primary consideration in their design and development projects. This would require a cultural acceptance of the issue - training, ongoing monitoring, and management. It's an investment and requires commitment.
Of course, there are other reasons to seek compliance, which we'll review in a moment, but let's not forget about our fellow digital citizens and what they may require as well.
Obviously, we cannot avoid the fact that, legally, many companies are either under threat of litigation or wishing to avoid such a fiasco. This is a principal reason why organizations seek our guidance. Sadly, the legal profession has less than scrupulous participants, sending in many cases frivolous demand letters to owners of websites and applications. As such, those companies are under duress to find support and remediate as quickly as possible.
Of course, not all cases are frivolous. As I said earlier, there are legitimate reasons that digital properties should be accessible. But in the majority of cases, lawyers are sending out demand letters in bulk and just waiting to see what dollars they can gather.
The fear of such demand or the receipt of the same often leads clients to seek our services simply to comply with the letter or at least produce enough of a paper trail to convince a lawyer (or judge) that they are indeed taking accessibility seriously.
Contract or Requirement
The third reason we see companies working toward compliance is a contract requirement. Today, many other organizations that work with subcontractors or license software require their vendors to maintain some adherence to avoid their own legal jeopardy. This trickle-down effect has led many software providers to seek compliance for their own applications. The methodology for seeking compliance can differ for these companies, but almost all need some statement provided to document that either their products are compliant or a compliance project is in progress.
Finally, much like the above scenario, many government agencies are now seeking compliance as part of their contract or usage requirements. Organizations seeking to build or deploy applications for government agencies must comply with Section 508 requirements, as an example. In these cases, often, the condition is 100% compliant with a provided statement of accessibility. If you want to do business with the government, whether federal, state, or local – you'll need to be compliant or at least on a pathway to becoming accessible.
There are other reasons why you want to be compliant with accessibility standards. Accessible websites tend to be more usable for all users. I believe there is also an SEO benefit: the WCAG standards can appeal to search engines and how they interpret your pages as well.
As a plus, having a fully accessible experience can be a boost for your company and its culture, in addition to its overall reputation among peers and clients. An accessible experience will draw more customers who require this assistance, stealing them from other companies which may not take it seriously. It's hard to believe it, but many organizations haven't done anything from an accessibility perspective at all.
There are many reasons to become accessible and compliant with current regulations. Sadly, too many organizations are focused on the economics of remediation versus the potential improvements to their products and overall customer experience. Accessibility needs to be treated with more overall concern. These days, companies are more focused on data protection and other types of compliance related to security. However, a focus on accessibility should be considered for the reasons we've outlined above – and above all else – because it's the right thing to do.