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Building a business case for accessibility design

~ by Alan W

Designing for Accessibility is a topic of growing importance around the world (some countries even have legal requirements) and it remains imperative that we start paying attention and bring in this mindset to how we design.

This specialist niche is establishing a firm place in the realm of design and most notably UX Design and although its importance is starting to get attention, setting up a business case for Designing for Accessibility is notably where we need to start. Gaining traction internally entails answering three important criteria:

1) How we communicate the business benefits;

2) How to show the value through examples, and

3) Having a plan, a roadmap with milestones to guide us to reach our destination as we embark this accessibility journey.

1. Communicate business benefits

Prioritizing and improving accessibility could far outweigh the cost and liability of ignoring it. This IS about the bottom line. Designing for accessibility is powerful for business, it has the ability to:

  • Broaden audience reach

  • Keep audience for longer (lessen drop off)

  • Heighten a positive and impactful experience (for everyone)

  • Build brand equity (through a positive experience, some customers will even consider how accessibility has been catered for when making brand choices and buying decisions, brand reputation is affected by a company's values around inclusivity.)

  • Curve out competitive advantage in leading the way (still wide open locally)

  • Lower operational costs (resolve user needs via interface reducing walk-in, call-in, mail-in operational costs)

  • Drive Innovation (accessibility features in products and services can solve unanticipated problems and contribute to developing better products overall, uncovering previously unthought of innovations.)

2. Show the value

Accessibility has gained great traction in established markets and leaves us rich with examples of how to take this way of designing into the heart of business.

  • Share success of others to inspire: "Now we're in this really interesting place where the Googles, the Apples and the Microsofts are competing on accessibility," said Google's Patnoe. "It is a business advantage to have a good story. It has a halo effect in terms of your brand," says Google’s Christopher Patnoe.

  • Leverage the impact of Covid-19 which highlighted the demand for accessible digital platforms. It also showed accessibility issues we were not aware of prior and these can directly be related to the current business and its ecosystem to showcase the need for accessibility design NOW.

  • Gather your own evidence by implementing your own quick wins and share those successes. Ignite word-of-mouth around these small wins as soon small wins become big wins as we convert followers along the way.

3. Have a plan

Designing for accessibility doesn't just happen. In business, the transition from idea to reality can be a process and a journey in itself. Build a structured roadmap with suggested milestones to reach the accessibility vision. It could look something like this:

  • Quick wins: start with collaborating with others within and outside of your domain to join the drive for accessibility quick wins

  • Accessibility champions: Continue to identify, recognise and encourage the accessibility champions that naturally come forward and start to build a community and voice to drive the accessibility initiative

  • Show accessibility work: Create platforms and channels to share accessibility work, so that success stories can inspire others to be part of something meaningful and impactful

  • Maturity assessment: Continuously assess progress and realign through maturity assessments

  • Develop formal structures: As momentum and maturity grows, strategic structures like CoE’s and ways of work can be developed to assist how we infuse designing for accessibility throughout the business.

  • Think big! Don’t stop.

We need to actively think about how we make accessibility a reality. It starts with you. One tiny consideration at a time during our design efforts will lead to a huge dent in the universe!

Editor’s note: A business case canvas for accessibility is a good tool to help you facilitate conversations and buy in as you embark on selling accessibility into business.

Work with Alan W

“Solving niche challenges founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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