Digital accessibility - the commercial realities - Business Works
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Digital accessibility - the commercial realities

Léonie Watson, Director of Accessibility Nomensa There's a lot of talk about how badly businesses do when it comes to digital accessibility, but little focus on why it really matters. The impact of not getting accessibility right is damaging to businesses, but the benefits of getting it right are very positive indeed.

First there is the legal bit. The Equality Act 2010 requires that the digital services provided by your business are accessible to people with disabilities. For most businesses, that encompasses websites, online applications and mobile apps.

To date, no court cases have been brought under the Equality Act or its predecessor the Disability Discrimination Act. That could be set to change, however. Earlier this year the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) issued proceedings against BMIBaby because the airlineís website isnít accessible to blind people.

What isnít so well known is that numerous cases have been settled out of court and under heavy non-disclosure. Paying out compensation is one thing, but having your businessesí name muddied in the press is quite another!

Second there is brand reputation. Businesses trade on their good reputation. Brand is incredibly important to most consumers and trust is hard won in todayís consumer-driven marketplace.

So, the last thing your business needs is to be highlighted as actively discriminating against people with disabilities. Most reputable businesses would be horrified at the thought.

Look at it another way. There are around 12 million people in the UK with a recognised disability. If you include the 12 million people in the UK aged 65 or over, many of whom also benefit from good accessibility, thatís a fair chunk of the population. Even allowing for some overlap between the two, that could be around 16.5 million people who could be losing trust in your brand.

On the other hand, if youíre getting digital accessibility right, thatís 27% of the UK population that would probably choose your brand over that of your competitors. Itís a depressing thing to acknowledge, but really good accessibility is still rare enough to make it a compelling differentiator for your business.

Third is good PR and, more specifically, word-of-mouth recommendations. Most brand experts will tell you that a personal recommendation is absolute gold dust in marketing terms.

People with disabilities often belong to support networks or groups. Word travels fast when it comes to a really positive experience and recommendations from trusted friends is often a key factor in the decision making process.

It isnít just about word-of-mouth recommendations either. Getting people to your website is one thing, persuading them to return again is quite another. If someone with a disability finds that your business offers them a good (accessible) experience, the chances are that theyíll become a very loyal customer as well as recommend your business to their networks.

Fourth is revenue generation. Think about those numbers. Estimates suggest that disabled people have an annual spending power of around £120 billion and that people over the age of 65 could be spending as much as £84 billion a year by 2017. Thatís an awful lot of money.

Whether youíre a corporate business in an international marketplace or a local firm with a regional customer base, it makes no sense in todayís economic climate to ignore a potential revenue stream that size. No one business will increase revenue by that entire amount, but if your business attracts just 0.001% of the 'accessibility pound' thatís a cool £20.4 million on the table.

Fifth is the boost to your natural search engine ranking, the reduction to your bandwidth requirements and faster download times that can all result from good accessibility.

Sixth is the feel-good factor. Itís a tough world out there. The forecast is gloomy, difficult decisions have to be taken and being in business often feels like an uphill struggle.

Getting digital accessibility right is a chance to enjoy doing the right thing for all the right reasons. Itís worth it for the sense of personal satisfaction, as well as for the confidence boost it can bring your business.

So now you know thereís a risk to your business if you donít get digital accessibility right and a range of undeniable benefits if you do!

To contact Léonie Watson or for more information, please visit:

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