I can’t find you, I can’t read you and I can’t buy you
Sumaira Latif, Company Accessibility Leader, Procter & Gamble
I can’t find you, I can’t read you and I can’t buy you. 10% of the population have a disability and use Assistive Technology and over 90% of brands have an inaccessible digital presence!
Just as we need to make our homes, our cars, our offices welcoming for people with disabilities, we also need to be mindful that disabled people need just like us all to be able to effectively experience websites and mobile apps. So why is the digital experience for disabled people so tough? Afterall, the purchasing power of this community is £212 Billion in the UK alone, which is comparable to the annual GDP of countries such as Portugal.
The reason is simply the lack of awareness among the business leaders and the development community. Making websites accessible is achievable (there are guidelines in place) and the relatively small upfront cost has a large potential ROI as you expand your potential customer base by 20%. Considering better web accessibility means better SEO, CSR & brand integrity, the likelihood that fixing issues for assistive tech users will also find things that prevent everyone else from using your websites.
Today May 16 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). It is a day that celebrates accessibility and helps to educate us on the importance of making our digital presence accessible.
Disabled people use “Assistive Technology” to access the internet and mobile apps. Screen readers, text-to-speech and text magnification for people with low to no vision, adapted mice that use gestures instead of touch to move for people with hand impairment. These assistive technologies require apps to be designed accessibly for everyone. Accessibility doesn’t compromise usability and vice versa if built properly. For example blind users can be accommodated by providing context within code tags for pictures, buttons and parts of the page. These are completely hidden from the view of sighted users. People affected by colour blindness can be helped by contrast adjustments and colour labelling. But the advantages behind those changes are universal and would positively impact those with normal vision. More often than not, we are creating websites, which superficially look properly structured. However, the code behind them isn’t so, which makes it difficult or impossible for someone using assistive technology to navigate through.
In the past I, an assistive technology user, would just accept that being blind compromises my access to websites and mobile apps. This is no longer the case. I know what an excellent experience looks like. Nowadays, I am independently able to do my grocery shopping, banking and post on social media. Still, there are so many other sites, which are not accessible. Perhaps that is why the number of legal cases enforcing websites to be accessible are on the rise. The number of claims have risen 10 fold in the last few years, including a case in Norway where the national airline, SAS, was faced with a daily fine of €15,000 until it became accessible.
I’d like to celebrate the opportunities that assistive technology and the web have opened up to disabled people. This is why it is imperative to encourage every business leader to take note of making their websites and mobile apps accessible.
- Making accessibility a requirement in any website brief
- Testing the accessibility at the design phase
- Launching only after the website is checked for accessibility compliance and passes the benchmark
This will unlock your digital brand communication to an additional 10-20% of consumers.
To bring this to life, I invite you to set yourself a challenge to go mouse free for an hour and brows your favourite websites.
Sumaira is presenting her personal journey in the workplace at the d&i Leaders Disability at Work Summit, taking place on October 1 in London. View agenda.
* This article was first published by Sumaira Latif on Linkedin on 16/5/19. Click here to view.