Business Issues -> Compliance
By: Peter Abrahams, Practice Leader - Accessibility and Usability, Bloor Research
Published: 15th February 2007
Copyright Bloor Research © 2007
At the recent First European e-Accessibility Forum run by BrailleNet in Paris I listened to a very powerful business case for accessibility.
Julie Howell, from the digital design agency Fortune Cookie, introduced one of her clients, David Wilton, from the UK financial services company Legal & General.
Legal & General's business case for accessibility had been presented at previous accessibility conferences that I attended but then the figures were considered confidential. I can now include the numbers and also discuss some of the implications of them.
Legal & General had been getting complaints about the web site because it was not accessible to some people with disabilities. In particular these complaints were landing on David's desk, he therefore went to the board to ask for the money to improve the web site. The main justifications were:
Legal & General contracted Fortune Cookie to redevelop the site. After ensuring the new site conformed to all the relevant accessibility standards, that it passed user testing, and that it was successfully evaluated by the Shaw Trust, the site went live.
Legal & General had been tracking the use and performance of the original site and continued tracking the new design. The results make a strong business case for accessibility:
All of these statistics are excellent and can be seen to have a direct effect on the profitability of Legal & General which far outweighed the expenditure and demonstrate excellent return-on-investment (ROI). Good news for Legal & General and recognition for David and Fortune Cookie.
But looking behind the numbers I think there is a very important message for the accessibility industry. Which of the above numbers can we say happened because the site is now more accessible to disabled people?
The message is that thinking about, and designing for, accessibility is the best way to:
These benefits should be attractive to any CEO, CIO or Marketing Director even if they are not convinced about, or do not understand, the importance of access for disabled people.
In my research on accessibility I attend conferences and I listen and talk about accessibility with academics, consultants, advocates, vendors, CIOs and users. My perception is that selling accessibility purely on the benefits to the disabled community is an uphill battle. This is borne out by the facts that:
My conclusion is that advocates of accessibility, including myself, should spend less time and effort talking about the benefits to disabled people, however important we think this is. Instead we should talk about accessibility as a discipline that improves the usability and quality of solutions for all users; and thus improves return on investment and profitability. As an aside we should say that:
If we talk in these terms we should get want we want with much less effort.
Posted: 15th February 2007 | By Lawrence S :
We want IT-Director.com to be 100% accessible and 100% standards compliant. Add your comment to this thread as way of petition.
Posted: 15th February 2007 | By Peter Abrahams (Author):
Lawrence As you know I am very keen on accessibility and standards compliance.
I have worked very hard with IT-A's web development team and they have been very responsive to concerns expressed; for example see the discussion around my article
'Websites - Fixed size text and other matters '.
I am very happy that we should use this thread as a petition. However I would ask that each petitioner logs on so we know the email is real and also that they include a description of a problem they have encountered on the site. That way we can decide if the problem is substantive and prioritise any remedial work.
Posted: 19th February 2007 | By Ivan Slade :
Selling accessibility is a major problem. I have now turned to equating it with search engine optimisation or usability testing in that the application results in increased benefit for all users (citing the examples given in the article). You can then add the "additional benefits" of compliance, corporate responsibility and so on. To most business people this is speaking their language (namely money) and flipping the solution on it's head. It's win win.
Posted: 24th March 2007 | By Richard Karpinski :
This is great. Can we somehow hear about what was changed and why? Any chance you can put the actual old and new sites up on other URLs so we can see how it is and was? Could you remove the actual content leaving enough to understand what the changes do to the behavior?
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