10 ways to build a business case for digital accessibility

How do you secure the budget you need for digital accessibility? 

We asked industry experts and renowned TechShare Pro speakers for their top tips on building a business case for digital accessibility. Based on those interviews, here are ten tips on how to build a business case for accessibility.

We are running a FREE webinar on the Business Case for Accessibility

1. Leverage the impact of “Covid-19”

Image shows a picture of the Covid-19 virus under the microscopeThere's no doubt that Covid-19 accelerates the business case for accessibility. 

Having almost everyone work from home during the pandemic highlighted the demand for accessible digital platforms. If nothing else, it showed up the accessibility issues that may not have been seen before. 

For example, Caroline Casey, the founder of The Valuable 500, recalls having to ask colleagues in virtual meetings to stop using text chat because, as a blind woman, she can't read it. 

Using online platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom provides an opportunity to include all your employees, whether it’s online captions for people with hearing impairments or by including audio descriptions for visually impaired people.

2. Boost your online business

The pandemic prompted a seismic shift in shopping habits. 

In March 2020, 40% of UK shoppers said they'd been shopping more online than pre-pandemic. By February 2021, 75 per cent of UK shoppers said they were shopping online more. 

However, if your website isn’t accessible, you’ll lose customers. 

In 2016, the Click-Away Pound Survey found that 4 million people abandoned a retail website because of the barriers they encountered, taking with them an estimated spend of £11.75 billion. In 2019, it grew to £17.1 billion. 

3. Listen to your customers

Big numbers make an impact, but there’s no substitute for customer feedback, says The Business Disability Forum’s Lucy Ruck. “Personal storytelling of someone you know, or someone you have a connection with, means so much more than a big figure,” she says. 

Call us to find out more about our Diverse Accessibility User Testing: +44 (0)1926 465 247

4. Boost profits by driving inclusive policies

The literal bottom line is that money talks, and a diverse workforce is proven to boost profits. Accenture's 2018 report "Getting to Equal; the Disability Inclusion Advantage" identified a range of “champions”, best-in-class companies that excel in disability inclusion and equality – and are twice as likely to outperform competitors.

The report also found that champions achieved 28% higher revenue and a 30% better performance on economic profit margin. 

The Disability Equality Index (DEI) reflects the growing focus on ESG (Economic, Social and Governance) among businesses, markets, and consumers. 

5. Convince your senior management team

Buy-in from your senior team is essential in building a business case for accessibility, and multinationals are leading the way. For example, the Valuable 500 brings together the "world's biggest CEO collective for disability inclusion".

Members include Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Nestle, Unilever, Shell, the BBC, and Vodafone. The list also includes 36 FTSE 100 companies, 46 of the Fortune 500 and 28 of the Nikkei. The organisations have a combined revenue of $8 trillion. 

“If we do not have leaders at the top of their businesses, advocating and speaking to this as a strategic business imperative, it's not going to get done,” says Caroline Casey, founder of The Valuable 500. 

6. Win customer loyalty through ethical policies

Companies riding the crest of the wave towards Economic, Social, Governance – or ESG – are likely to win customers and customer loyalty.

For example, 87% of millennials indicated the importance of ESG in investment decisions. In 20 years, ethical consumerism has grown three-fold from £11.2bn to £41.1bn in the UK. 

A 2005 study examining consumer attitudes towards companies that hire people with disabilities found that 92% of consumers felt more favourable toward companies that hire individuals with disabilities.

7. Embrace the zeitgeist

A hot topic in the business community is ESG, and you don’t want to get left behind. 

ESG stands for Economic, Social and Governance. Seen by some as a successor to corporate and social responsibility, ESG demands that a business has measurable objectives against each area. 

This performance benchmarking is important to shareholders and customers. Factors companies can measure performance against include:

  • Environmental: How a company addresses climate change such as energy consumption, recycling rates and greenhouse emissions. 
  • Social: A company’s record on diversity and inclusion, pay, equality, social justice, and data privacy. 
  • Governance: How the company manages executive pay, the diversity of board directors and shareholder transparency. 

The Disability Equality Index helps companies build a roadmap of measurable, tangible actions that they can take to achieve disability inclusion and equality. 

8. Use digital accessibility to close the disability gap

A diverse workforce benefits everyone within an organisation. 

“Having someone with impairment [within your organisation], it is an additional reminder that this is a community that we're building for,” said Christopher Patnoe, Google's head of accessibility programs and disability inclusion.

However, The Valuable 500’s Caroline Casey says there’s a lack of senior management openly identifying as having a disability: 

  • 15-20% of the global population has some experience of disability
  • 80% of disabled people have invisible disabilities
  • 7% of C-Suite executives have a lived experience of disability

“If we do not have leaders at the top of their businesses, advocating and speaking to this as a strategic business imperative, it's not going to get done,” says Casey. 

According to a report from the International Labour Organization, digital investment can help close the gap. “Digital accessibility investment has a universally positive impact on all users, internal and external, and is a pre-requisite for sustainable and scalable hiring in serving people with all different abilities,” it says. 

9. Boost your brand narrative

Increasingly, there’s recognition that investing in digital accessibility benefits your brand, particularly within the technology sector.  

"Now we're in this really interesting place where the Googles, the Apples and the Microsofts are competing on accessibility," said Google's Patnoe. "It is a business advantage to have a good story. It has a halo effect in terms of your brand," says Google’s Christopher Patnoe. 

He cites Microsoft, who put an ad for its Xbox adaptive controller in the middle of the Super Bowl, the most-watched sports event in the US. 

That says Patnoe, "raised the visibility of accessibility from a major corporation, from being something you do to feel good, to something that you can compete on.”

10. Embrace assistive technology

It’s easier than ever to make information accessible to all using assistive technology. Microsoft, for example, has turned on its accessibility checker in Microsoft Word by default. The checker sits beside the spell-checker within the Word Ribbon. The software giant hopes the accessibility checker will become as ubiquitous as its neighbour. Microsoft is also bringing Immersive Reader to PowerPoint. Both are a step forward for making documents more accessible in the workplace. 

VoiceOver in iOS15 will read out audio descriptions of images, but only if the people building those web pages and apps add the alternative text descriptions that enable this. If you don’t, you’re increasingly likely to be caught out, risking customers clicking away from your website and services and turning to providers who do. 

The Click-Away Pound found that 63% of people use Assistive Technology – up from 53% in 2016. The survey also saw an increase in those using screen readers (58%), magnification (27%) and speech recognition (23%).  

How AbilityNet can Help