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The Accessibility Edge:
9 Reasons Why Accessibility
is a Game Changer

It’s 2024 and accessibility has never been more crucial. Simply put, accessibility is your best strategy for creating an innovative and inclusive product that resonates with a wide audience and complies with new regulations. It's time to include it in your digital strategy.

Back

The Accessibility Edge:
9 Reasons Why Accessibility
is a Game Changer

It’s 2024 and accessibility has never been more crucial. Simply put, accessibility is your best strategy for creating an innovative and inclusive product that resonates with a wide audience and complies with new regulations. It's time to include it in your digital strategy.

Lavinia Aparaschivei
| Linkedin
| Content Manager

In brief

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We live in a more diverse world than ever. With diversity comes beauty, but also many challenges, yet overcoming them is the definition of progress. When it comes to the intersectionality of challenges and diversity in the digital space, we are talking about accessibility. The litmus test of innovation. The more accessible a product is to a wider audience, the more advanced it’s considered. Just look at some of today’s most recognized tech brands: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Spotify all have launched their own accessibility initiatives with assistive features and tools. We are seeing how personalization and accessibility are key themes that ultimately drive success.

But beyond numbers (as in, your profits), accessibility brings about a hoard of other benefits. Like compliance (which is becoming more and more urgent), resilience to dynamic markets and consumer needs as well as expectations, a distinct competitive edge, and the promise of inclusivity. Accessibility breaks down barriers, empowers everyone, and opens doors to a more equitable future for all. It may sound too good to be true, but we’re here to show you that it’s not.

Starting with the background.
Why accessibility = innovation

The Curb Cut Effect

These examples highlight how innovations initially developed for accessibility have become mainstream, benefiting a much broader audience and enhancing overall usability and convenience for everyone. This is called the ‘curb cut effect.’ These small, unassuming, humble ramps on sidewalks were originally designed to make streets more accessible for wheelchair users and have since become a standard urban design feature. Benefiting not only people with disabilities but also parents with strollers, travelers with luggage, bikers, delivery workers and many more.

The history of accessibility speaks volumes of how accessible design is a driving force in the creation and adoption of new technology. Many of the tools we use today were first created for the disability community in the past.

Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone in 1876, was initially motivated by his work with the deaf and hard of hearing. Audiobooks were initially created for the blind and visually impaired. And even the electric toothbrush, initially developed in Switzerland in 1954, aimed to help those who had difficulty using their hands.

Fast forward to modern-day tech, think about the fact that accessibility has also played a significant role in the development of AI systems like ChatGPT. Natural Language Processing was initially developed to help computers understand and process human language, and it has roots in initial efforts to create assistive communication devices for people with disabilities.

So we have the disabled community to thank for the early development of AI way before we started using it in our daily lives. (Well, at least I do. While this article is written by a person, ChatGPT did a rockstar of a job at compiling all these historical facts together to show just how instrumental the need for accessibility has been in our society. Talk about a 4th wall break.)

Understanding the basics.
What is digital accessibility?

We segued through a bit of general understanding of accessibility, but we’re here to focus on its digital presence. Digital accessibility means designing and developing digital services so that regardless of a person’s physical or mental ability, they can still interact with your app, website, or other digital product in a way that is meaningful.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Inventor of the World Wide Web

"The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."

While accessibility means designing universal products and providing an equivalent user experience for anyone, no matter their permanent or temporary limitations. Permanent, temporary? Let’s explore what this means by understanding the numbers behind accessibility. Or better put:

The significance of accessibility

You may not be conscious of the number of people for whom digital accessibility is particularly relevant. According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 billion people, or 1 in 6 people across the globe, experience significant disabilities. What’s more, the UN predicts that by 2050, 2 billion people will be aged 60 and older, many of whom will experience age-related disabilities.

While you are targeting people with health disabilities, there could be situational barriers that some people might face, like bright sunlight, noisy environments, or fatigue. And if you think about it, users that have a limited or slow internet connection would also greatly benefit from a website that has meta descriptions on images when they cannot load.

So you see, you could be missing out on a much, much larger group of potential customers than you imagined. Calling it a minority is technically true, but it’s the biggest minority nonetheless. Which, when we’re talking about billions, is huge.

In a few words, we can break down the below categories of users that will benefit from accessible design:

  • Users with temporary and permanent health disabilities
  • Elderly people whose cognitive and physical abilities have deteriorated due to aging
  • Users faced with situational restrictions such as bright sunlight or noisy environments
  • Users with slow or intermittent internet connections

As part of the health disabilities, we can then identify the following:

  • Visual Impairment: This means the reduction of the visual perception of the environment to the point where conventional aids, such as glasses or medication, are rendered useless. This group will face serious obstacles when using solutions incompatible with screen readers, unscalable content, or solutions where differences between elements are determined only by contrast (especially relevant for color blindness).
CASE STUDY HIGHLIGHT

We tested how players with color blindness and dyslexia experienced the Sports Interactive games, with eye-opening results.

  • Hearing Disorders: Defined as a group of diseases or dysfunctions associated with a partial or complete loss of hearing and understanding of surrounding sounds. For this category of users, it will be difficult to perceive audio and video content without synchronized text captions.
  • Speech Disorders: These imply dysfunctions in the speech anatomy that prevent free communication with other people. People with these disorders are likely to have problems using smart solutions based only on voice input, without any alternative methods of interacting with the interface.
  • Cognitive and Learning Disabilities: Describes a range of diseases associated with congenital or nervous system dysfunctions, as well as diseases which affect the acquisition, organization, retention, understanding, or use of verbal or nonverbal information. This can be Down Syndrome, autism, dementia, dyslexia, etc. For those with these disorders, solutions with overloaded interfaces, lengthy onboarding processes, large volumes of solid text, ambiguous icons, and small fonts will be difficult to use.
  • Mobility and Vestibular Disorders: Includes people with physical disabilities, such as the total or partial loss of the upper limbs, impaired motor skills of the hands, and lack of control in fine motor skills. This can include frequent convulsions, arthritis, stroke, epilepsy, amputation of limbs, and so on. Thus, mouse- or touch-only solutions, as well as solutions with autoplay or with no alternative scrolling tools (other than a slider), may not be available to this category of users.

The numbers don’t add up.
The challenges of accessibility adoption

While 15% of the world population lives with some form of disability, according to WebAIM only 2% of websites meet accessibility standards, leaving many users with disabilities unable to fully engage online. We know … we’re also in shock. But this is a safe space and there’s no room for judgment. Let’s put our empathy caps on and look at the reason why there’s such a big discrepancy between the need and the adoption of accessibility:

  • Awareness: At a global level, the lack of widespread understanding surrounding digital accessibility principles and guidelines means many individuals are unaware of the importance of designing with accessibility in mind.
  • Cultural norms and attitudes: Some societies may stigmatize or misunderstand disabilities, resulting in a lack of awareness and support for more accessible design.
  • Understanding diverse needs: More tailored and innovative solutions are required at times to ensure full inclusivity. Addressing unique cases often demands additional resources, thorough testing, and ongoing adjustments.
  • Technical complexity: Implementing accessibility features often requires specialized knowledge and skills. That’s why collaboration with companies that offer accessibility testing and compliance, like Testbirds, is so important.
  • Compliance with ever-evolving standards: Adhering to laws and standards can be challenging. It requires a deep understanding of the guidelines and continuous updates to stay compliant with shifting regulations. Special mention here is the soon-to-be-instituted European Accessibility Act, which raises the urgency of complying with accessibility rules by 2025 (for new digital products), or 2030 (for anything released before 2025).
  • Integration with existing processes: Integration with current workflows can be difficult, especially if accessibility was not considered from the beginning.
  • Resource allocation: Accessibility, like all innovations, comes at a cost in terms of time, money, and human resources.
  • Testing with real users: Finding and engaging a diverse group of testers can be challenging and requires thoughtful planning and execution. But that’s where crowdtesting comes into play! We’ll speak more on this later.

Uncover opportunities at scale with crowdtesting

By leveraging the collaborative force of testers with different disabilities from around the world, and their unbiased feedback, you can deliver better CX. For all.

Learn more

  • Ongoing maintenance: Accessibility is not a one-time effort but requires ongoing monitoring and updates to ensure that products remain accessible as new features are added, technologies evolve, and regulations change. Which they do all the time.

So the path toward global accessibility and inclusion may not be easy, but making progress requires addressing the challenges head-on. Why? If you’re not convinced yet (and even if you are!), let’s dive deep into the reasons you need to make accessibility your priority.

The reason you’re here.
Deep-dive into the opportunities of digital accessibility

1. Inclusion

Inclusion sounds buzzwordy, but hear us out. Accessible digital solutions empower individuals with disabilities to access information, services, and opportunities and participate in society just like everyone else. This boosts social inclusion, diversity, and equity, leading to equal opportunities for education, employment, and more.

On top of that, access to information and digital resources fosters independence. This, in turn, enables self-expression and enhances social connections. All these aspects contribute to a more inclusive society where everyone can contribute and thrive.

2. Expanded reach

While inclusion may still sound very conceptual, more practically, one of the most important benefits of providing digital equity is expanding your reach. Since one in six people worldwide has some kind of disability, following digital accessibility recommendations makes your product more interesting and useful for more people. Which makes for a demographic you did not have access to before. Imagine the untapped potential of an audience that is empowered to explore your digital playground without hindrance.

3. Better SEO

Even more practically and with pretty much immediate payoffs, accessible digital content means optimizing the markup and responsiveness of your digital solutions, which directly affects usability. Thus, web- and mobile-accessible solutions rank better on Google. As simple as that.

4. Improved UX

We just mentioned usability. Along with reaching bigger communities of users, you’ll also optimize your digital products in terms of usability, making user flows simpler, faster, shorter, and more intuitive. Do I smell a new Daft Punk song?

Remember, this does not only refer to users with medical disabilities. The presence of accessible solutions also benefits users with a poor or unstable internet connection, for example. You can be the soothing balm to the open wound/frustration caused by slow internet.

5. Improved customer satisfaction

Following this train of thought, digital accessibility can positively impact the satisfaction, loyalty, and retention of your precious audience. A user-centric approach helps companies build long-term relationships as they make their customers feel seen. Because first impressions do matter.

You also need to take into account that 71% of users with disabilities will leave a website that is not accessible (according to Click-Away Pound Survey*). With an accessible product you can make sure all your users love your product right from the start.

*Whoever named this survey deserves a medal

6. Brand reputation

As companies around the world—like the high-octane players we mentioned at the beginning of this article, such as Netflix, Facebook, etc.—are creating more inclusive products, digital accessibility is a good practice that will set you apart from your competitors. Plus, it will help establish a positive image in the eyes of your customers.

It signals that you care about all your user communities and are committed to providing an inclusive experience for everyone.

7. Financial opportunity

If we talk shop, all the above benefits (expanded audience, better SEO, better reputation) will eventually extend the scope and revenue generation of companies. By drawing in and retaining a growing portion of users who can benefit from accessible features, you create more opportunities for development, advancement, and competitiveness.

8. Addressing changing consumer expectations

Aside from all this sweet talk about churning better bottom lines, here’s another bottom line: meeting user expectations isn’t just a trend anymore, it’s a necessity. Having digital products that welcome everyone isn’t merely a checkbox. It’s what consumers have come to expect.

So take a moment to ask yourself: can your business afford to alienate users with disabilities? While potentially losing an even bigger portion of your audience on account of this alienation? Embracing digital accessibility is more than a choice. It’s a path to a stronger, more inclusive future for your brand.

9. Addressing changing regulations

What is digital Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing ensures that websites, apps, and interfaces are user-friendly for people with disabilities. This testing should include people with disabilities using your digital product. They can give important feedback on how users with different challenges interact with and navigate the interface.

Not to mention that embracing digital accessibility is more than a choice because it will be a legal requirement. Companies that can’t guarantee their digital assets can be navigated by people with disabilities or that rely on assistive technologies risk fines or lawsuits.

Every year, digital accessibility is increasingly regulated locally and internationally. Next year sees the implementation of the EAA (European Accessibility Act), a mandatory directive that requires EU member states to ensure that certain products and services (including digital) meet accessibility requirements. If your digital products and services in the EU aren’t compliant (by June 2025 or June 2030, depending on when it’s released), you risk significant legal action. Above being an ethical issue, accessibility is also a legal one, so instead of gearing up on lawyers, we suggest you gear up on Accessibility Testing.

TL;DR

It’s the right thing to do

It’s the smart thing to do

It’s a thing you must do

How do I reap all these benefits?

We have one word for you: testing. Thoroughly researching and testing digital products gives companies critical insight into how users will experience their digital tools. It also opens the door to accommodate many of the assistive technologies available today. But more specifically, we’re talking about crowdtesting.

Real users with disabilities or those who rely on assistive technology, like some in our global community of crowd testers, provide insights into how the product is used in everyday situations. Highlighting issues that automated tests might miss. They can reveal practical challenges that only arise in real-world contexts. As well as foster empathy and a deeper understanding among developers and designers that can lead to more thoughtful and inclusive design choices.

Digital Accessibility Testing

Unlocking a digital future – for all

By testing with users who have various disabilities, we can identify all accessibility barriers. Our Accessibility Crowdtesting and Expert Review are the only 2 solutions you need to ensure your product is accessible to everyone.

Learn more

Plus, accessibility needs vary widely among users. Testing with a diverse group of real users ensures that the product accommodates different disabilities. And we’re just scratching the surface here. Our next article covers all the ways crowdtesting can ensure that your digital solutions are usable, inclusive, and compliant with legal standards.

Conclusion

Wrapping up, we’d like to stress a few things. First, access equals equality, and companies need to push themselves to make real, quantitative changes. Accessibility is a fundamental requirement that reflects your brand’s values. But ultimately, it’s about humanity. It’s about acknowledging the diversity of your audience and ensuring everyone can interact with your digital space in a way that works best for them. Your digital products should be a welcoming space for all.

Second, timing is important. Not only because of upcoming changes in regulation, but because it takes more time and effort to fix accessibility issues in existing platforms than to create a fully accessible site right from the start. And let’s be realistic: the five years between the enactment of the EAA and its reinforcement will pass quicker than you might expect.

Third, it’s important to know that you are not alone in this. Accessibility is not the responsibility of only one person or one company; it’s a team effort, from testing to content, design, and implementation. So naturally, it’s vital to find partners that can help you achieve your ultimate accessibility goals. With practice, collaboration, and testing, designing and developing inclusive digital projects will become natural, increasingly cheaper, and less time-consuming.

We can build a more accessible future together. We have testing solutions specifically crafted to cater to the needs of accessibility compliance at every level imaginable in order to make digital solutions future-proof. Just get in touch with one of our accessibility experts to find out how.



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