From compliance to opportunity: digital accessibility

The shift of work, commerce and social life to virtual life, during the COVID-19 pandemic, has highlighted the problems of digital accessibility. People with disabilities are often unable to access the basic functions of websites and apps. While some companies are making great strides in digital access, it’s still not enough. It is also surprising that as the world becomes technological, and more and more things become accessible, less and less things can be accessed.

In addition, serving the disability community is also a great opportunity in the market. Globally, this population represents at least $8000 billion in disposable income according to Accenture, because they are more likely to sign up for companies whose online services and platforms they can easily use.

A Nielsen study found that people with disabilities are more likely to be loyal to brands, make more purchases and spend more than the average consumer.

From compliance to opportunity

In the context of digital access for people with disabilities, organizations must ensure that all users involved can use exactly the same technology, regardless of their disability.

For example, the increasing use of the Internet has prompted many countries to incorporate web accessibility into existing civil rights legislation protecting persons with disabilities. Others have instituted new laws in favor of a more accessible Internet. France in particular signed a decree, in July 2019, requiring companies with a turnover of more than 250 million, in addition to public services, to make their digital tools available to all.

In addition, in order to ensure the correct application of these requirements, standards have been defined in each country. In France, the General Reference for the Improvement of Accessibility (RGAA) makes it possible to define requirements and assessments for reporting the accessibility or inaccessibility of a website for populations with disabilities. Also, these standards are in addition to those applied by the European Union, based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These guidelines ensure that organizations respect four principles: perception, operability, understandability, and robustness.

Many companies have focused their digital access strategy on compliance with these laws, not on the “ethical” obligation to allow everyone to benefit from digital tools. So the focus is primarily on risk reduction.

While the latter has been the catalyst for many accessibility initiatives, it has also led to a real change in the way companies approach their digital experiences and their users. By incorporating accessibility from the beginning of the project, the organization is able to focus its efforts on the actions with the greatest impact.

Moreover, the pandemic has also accelerated this shift in mindset in favor of innovation, according to a recent report by the International Labor Organization. ” [La COVID-19 a] Significantly increased visibility of the impact of digital in the workplace… Overall, the impact of the pandemic has further accelerated digital transformation. They have also “normalized” the adoption of inclusive technologies, and many companies already have well-established accessibility solutions and practices around mobility, vision, hearing, and increasingly in the field of cognitive impairment and neurodiversity. In the face of the market represented by the population with disabilities, digital accessibility must be seen as an opportunity rather than a matter of compliance.

Towards more digital access

However, there is still a long way to go. For companies to be inclusive and accessible, it requires a human-centered and inclusive mindset in the way companies create their products and services. Most organizations still have a lot of work to do. However, it is essential that all experiences, including products, content media, and websites, are comprehensively designed.

However, very few companies realize that digital access must be an integral part of digital transformation strategies, according to the aforementioned ILO report. They fail to understand the positive and inclusive impact of investments in digital access, and that it is a prerequisite for sustainable and scalable employment that serves people of different abilities. In addition to simply benefiting users with disabilities, focusing on web and content accessibility improves brand awareness, facilitates social inclusion, and creates a better experience for all users.

Finally, if access does emerge, the situation can – and should – evolve. Thus, digital access technology will continue to improve thanks to advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence or machine learning. However, it is imperative that companies give digital accessibility the attention it deserves. Today, more than ever, technology is helping to make the world more inclusive. That’s why decision makers must work together to move from theory to practice and improve the daily lives of thousands of people around the world.

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