New predictions indicate that tech companies committed to accessibility will total $10 billion to $16 billion in annual design spending across the US and Canada. The increase in funds reinforces access not only as an ethical priority, but as a financial priority.
Accessibility, as many believe, is not-for-profit kryptonite. It is a money maker. One, because making your product accessible adds an extra crowd of people in your potential market. Two, because it actually optimizes your workflow by accounting for more issues than ever before. Third, because if you ignore it it will come back to bite you on the ass with huge lawsuits and public risk (read: profit and customer loss). If anything, remember this: The cost of non-compliance is almost three times more than that of compliance.
Today, we’re seeing something similar that happened with diversity and inclusion: While many businesses used to consider D&I a headache, we’ve since woken up to the fact that diversity of gender, age, and ethnicity has a direct impact. companies’ bottom lines. The same feeling will come with ease.
At its core, accessibility means making your product as useful as possible to as many people as possible. The appeal and efficiency that is related to higher revenue. So here’s how all businesses can achieve a higher ROI by focusing on accessibility, and how to optimize those returns.
Start by letting your teams know what they’re missing
Having a training strategy in place in your business can increase your profits by almost 50%. When educating your team about accessibility, you’re not only giving them new skills to increase productivity, you’re optimizing their workflow over the long run and fostering a healthy team culture.
Making your product accessible adds an additional crowd of people to your potential market and optimizes your workflow by accounting for more issues than ever before.
What many teams are not understanding today is that accessibility only opens up a product to more users. If we don’t make our employees aware of it, they’ll keep shying away from the word “accessibility” because they think it means being surrounded by some vague rules. But when we make that process easy to digest for the whole team and create a shared language on Access, we make it easier to understand the end goal: better design and development.
there are doing From IBM’s Equal Access Toolkit to Microsoft’s Inclusive Design Pages to the A11Y Project, simple ways for businesses to get their heads around accessibility. However, free access is related to a lack of access to resources, which is a major issue that our wider community is trying to address.
Let’s get into the specifics: Through awareness and training, you will begin to reassure your team about the importance of accessibility so that they can commit to it wholeheartedly, not just for the users, as it will help their own actions. Experience will improve. Working with accessibility in mind makes employees’ work processes more efficient and reduces the cost of line errors. In addition, managers will spend less resources monitoring work to ensure that it is compliant or rework designs that do not meet the mark.
Employees will understand customer needs much more if they are exposed to the different ways different people interact with the product. We are not talking about a statistically insignificant group: people with disabilities are the largest minority in the United States. One in four American adults suffers from a disability, and globally, we’re talking about 1 billion people – but even more when you account for the many individuals who can’t go to the doctor or Can’t go or hasn’t been diagnosed at all. You might have experienced this too. Temporary disabilities – such as having your arm in a cast for a few months or recovering from a serious operation – will affect your ability to use certain products if they are not made with you.
Finally, providing this mindful training lets your employees know that you are ready to negotiate how to improve work conditions and culture. A happy team is a more flexible team that will accompany you on your product journey, while avoiding the cost of recruiting new employees.
Better testing, better efficiency
As your product grows, it becomes less and less malleable. It’s harder to fix the first row of bricks on a new home if you’re already building a second and third floor.
That’s why we need to rethink testing. By constantly trying out your product, you’ll know what you need to change as you move forward. The problem is that people with disabilities are being left out of the testing process. And even when they do appear in data sets, their data are often perceived as anomalies because they don’t follow the patterns we’re used to seeing from competent people.
Fixing it starts with how we envision our target market. Does your target user base consist of people with disabilities – and that includes the invisible? As part of your personality profile? In other words, are you reaching and engaging them, or are they more of a byproduct you don’t expect to see using your product?
Then test for qualitative and quantitative inputs. Bring diverse users into the “office,” asking them how they feel about navigating your product. Did it take them time to learn how a particular feature works? Was there a complete roadblock? We need to understand how they interact with your software, as much as data retention and time spent per visit.
It directly affects your bottom line. When you’re paying hefty fines and rebuilding the core elements of your product, compliance issues cause even more pain in your journey. Lawsuits against allegedly inaccessible websites are on the rise, and more than 2,500 were filed last year.
With more precise testing, your processes will become more efficient as you understand where and when in your product lifecycle you need to insert equipment and make changes. Essentially, you will optimize your workflow. Instead of stopping production and optimizing when you iterate, you’ll proceed in a straight line whenever you know they’re needed. You will launch and get your product into the hands of consumers faster.
Ideally, you’ll test within a diverse community that is personally invested in the success of your product – which will give you a quicker and more detailed feedback loop.
Build an internal accessibility team
It is everyone’s job to understand accessibility. However, there will always be people who are specifically focused on ensuring product design, development and marketing initiatives.
This group of people should be responsible for skilling others about accessibility and going for inclusive design. A company of a few hundred people could assign tasks to about 10 people. But it is not enough to employ just one or two people in the initial phase. Making accessibility a core part of design and development requires a broader culture for everyone involved.
Your long-term returns will always exceed the initial expense if you employ a few people to do the process correctly. Those people will ensure that each team is working optimally for all its users and is in sync with each other rather than wasting valuable time working to low standards.
It’s better to have this special team in-house not only to save money, but because these are the people who already eat, sleep, and breathe your product. When bringing in outsiders, whether they are experts or not, there will always be some difference between what they need to know to help and how much you can give as a company. This means that any problems that the members of the in-house team do not yet know, or cannot yet conceptualize, will probably remain unsolved.
Be smart about how you allocate your budget
You can’t think in the short term when you decide where to put your money. The budgets of today’s businesses are designed to lead to the most tangible and immediate returns. Yet growing fast and furiously pouring cash, making quick sales and cashing in, just isn’t that easy. Companies will not buy a product that is flawed. When there is very little thought in the product and who is using it, brands don’t hold up. Consumers will not fall in love with you.
Strong business leaders will see that there is a time frame for any investment. The inclusive design is both a cost-saving model and a profit maker, but you won’t see it from one day to the next. You’ll see that when users come to you you wouldn’t reach otherwise, and that’s when you avoid pitfalls that can not only cost, but take down a company.
So along with the product roadmap, from start to finish, allocate an accessibility budget to, among other things, spending time buying specialized equipment, educating your team, and designing your testing strategy. Set deadlines for completing each goal, and allocate different resources and timeframes for each process—it’s better to start with quick wins on new projects so your team can see and feel the reward, Then repeat. You may spend more initially when you educate your team, design your testing strategy, or purchase specialized equipment.
What you don’t want to see in your company is the accessibility negotiation, budget, and action plan that is centered at the end of your product development journey. Until then, it will be more about fixing what’s wrong rather than fixing it, at a higher cost to you.