Why accessibility is important from a business value perspective

Accessibility is not only beneficial to users with disabilities, but also for your business in general. Working with accessibility can strengthen your brand, help you reach a larger audience, and improve the usability of your products as well as reduce the risk of legal complications in the future. This is why accessibility is also important from a mobile application point of view. Let me explain.

Cathrine Tavs Andersen

Opinion by Cathrine Tavs Andersen, UX Designer

In my experience, many of our customers have heard the buzzword ‘accessibility’ but many are unaware of the importance and implications of overlooking it in their business solutions. For private companies especially, accessibility will become a factor they can't ignore with incoming governmental regulations being introduced in 2025.

Let me start by establishing that accessibility exists everywhere, and not only in architectural planning. Naturally, we take for granted that there must be disabled toilets in public buildings on the same level as regular toilets and curb cuts to the sidewalks (Source: Bygningsreglementet.dk). This is secured by regulations ensuring that the public space is accessible to everyone. But since 2018 similar regulations ensure that websites and applications from public and public-supported organizations are accessible. However, in this article, I will argue why everyone - public or not - should work with accessibility.

scrolling phone

Argument 1: Accessibility should be part of your diversity strategy

Accessibility and inclusiveness go hand in hand

When talking about accessibility we often refer to disabilities such as blindness or deafness. But working with accessibility is working with making the product more accessible and usable - including enhancing the overall user experience - for all of us, at all times. 

Therefore, I also like to refer to it as being digitally inclusive, as it treats all users equally. No matter your background, location, abilities, permanent or situational disabilities, etc., you should be able to use the product - and in relation to my profession - the application. 

Today, many organizations focus on diversity and inclusivity among their employees and throughout their work environment and recruitment strategy. If this is something you are working on in your organization on an everyday basis, I would argue that this is also something you should consider when it comes to your digital products and therefore, be a part of your overall diversity strategy.

Argument 2:  It will increase your audience

Working with accessibility will increase your audience, as it increases the number of people who are able to use your product, both on a permanent, temporary, and situational basis. 

Permanent, temporary, and situational disabilities

The degree of disability and impairment can be divided into 3 groups; permanent, temporary, and situational disabilities/impairments. And by being aware of these 3 groups when designing and developing your application, you will be able to increase your audience.

As an example, only having one arm is a permanent disability, while a fractured arm is a temporary impairment, and carrying your baby on your arm is a situational impairment. In this example designing an app solution that can be used with one hand, is not only making the application accessible for the person with one arm, but it is also beneficial for the person with her arm in plaster or his baby on his arm.

There are many different kinds of disabillities

Another example is the need for subtitles. Subtitles are essential if you have hearing impairments, but also if you are commuting on public transport and have forgotten your headphones. Here subtitles will not only be needed by people with hearing impairments but also by the rest of us. 

Or if you are one of many who have increased the text site on your phone, you want your applications to reflect the desire and need for a larger text. This is also an accessibility feature that benefits many of us.

Therefore, working with accessibility will both increase your audience and ensure that your audience, despite life changes, can use your product.  

Argument 3: Accessibility will improve the overall user experience

As I already mentioned in arguments no. 1 and no. 2 working with accessibility will improve the overall user experience. 

So what I am trying to establish is that focusing on making your application accessible, will not only benefit those the feature was designed for but a large number of your audience, which is called “the positive spillover effect.” 

Therefore, it is important to understand that the features which are designed to help people with permanent disabilities actually may - and often will - improve the overall user experience for all of us. 

Think user scenarios 

Another way of seeing the positive spillover effect is through user scenarios. Instead of thinking about disabilities and temporal and situational impairments, think of when and how your application is being used. 

Is your app often being used before going to bed, maybe darkmode would be appreciated? Do you provide a lot of text in your app, maybe the earlier mentioned possibility to increase the text size would make the reading experience much better. And is your app being used in bright sunlight, the contrast ratio is important to consider. 

These are examples of features related to accessibility, which will help enhance the overall user experience. 

Argument 4: An aging population increases the need for accessibility 

But what about the future? Will the accessibility efforts also be relevant in the future? Yes absolutely.  

Not only in Denmark but globally we are living longer than ever before. And according to Dansk Statistik, there will be an increase in the population aged over 80 by 57 % in 2030 (Source: Dansk Statistik). Because of this, it is also expected that all of us will experience some kind of impairment at some point in life which underlines the importance of working with accessibility. 

Therefore, Digitaliseringsstyrelsen also adds a 4th type to the degree of impairment, namely age-related functional impairments. It can, for example, be a tremor on the hands that creates a need to adjust the typing speed (Source: Digitaliseringsstyrelsen)

There are no statistics yet for how many people have increased the text size on their phones, but my experience is that there are more than you might think. I base this on both encounters with family and friends, but also the ongoing user surveys we conduct in Adapt. Try to ask around. Maybe you will meet someone who actually wants to increase the size, but doesn't know how to do it. Here, however, it is important to note that increased text size within an app requires that the app enables this function.

phone in dark mode

Argument 5: Government requirement by 2025

Last but not least, accessibility will soon become a requirement for private organizations as well. 

Today, the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) only affects public and publicly supported organizations. But by 2025 a similar act will be mandatory for the private sector (Source: Sikkerhedsstyrelsen). 

WCAG consists of four principles; Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust, all with underlying guidelines. In order to meet the requirements, level AA must be met, cf. the guidelines (source: W3C)

A similar guideline will be made for private organizations to follow by 2025 (source: Digitaliseringsstyrelsen). It is expected to be very similar to WCAG, hence we use this as a guideline for all our customers working with accessibility today. 

How I think and work with accessibility 

We advice all of our existing customers to incorporate the basic accessibility principles when we design and develop new applications, which the majority accepts. 

And for new customers, we often need to challenge their brand guidelines as they do not live up to the digital contrast requirements for digital readability. However, I experience a great understanding and support for this, as a basic accessibility principle. 

We have great examples of current clients like the Danish Royal Theater and the Finnish Opera and Ballet who have fully accessible solutions developed cf. WCAG 2.1. as publicly supported organizations.

Furthermore, we often encourage our customers to version the development, so that new accessibility and other features continuously can be added. But initiatives such as making it possible to navigate with a screen reader and keyboard as well as increasing the text size are something I believe should be enabled when starting to build the application.

To sum up

  1. Accessibility should be a part of your diversity strategy…

  2. Working with accessibility will make it possible to reach a larger audience…

  3. Accessibility will increase the overall user experience for all of us

  4. An aging population increases the need for accessibility

  5. Government requirement by 2025

working with accessibility

I hope you enjoyed this read and that it has triggered some thoughts. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out. I also hope this has encouraged you to contact us if you are considering accessibility features for your current or upcoming app solution. We are experienced in conducting accessibility tests on both applications and websites and on that basis coming up with recommendations on how to improve accessibility in your digital solution.