1.4: Does accessibility have to be expensive?


Sandi: So David. Does accessibility have to be expensive?

David: Well, the short answer is no, it doesn’t have to be. However, the cost will depend upon your perception of what accessibility is. So that is: if you view accessibility as a measurement of productivity, then it becomes a business investment. But if you view accessibility as a disability accommodation, then the cost becomes a burden to the business.

Sandi: So if I decide that it’s part of my business strategy, what kind of cost would I be looking at?

David: Well, you’re actually looking at business efficiency, so increasing efficiency is better than increasing costs, right? So there are efficient ways to implement information communication technology with accessibility solutions into your business processes, and that is by integrating the standards and requirements of all business costs. 

Basically, you know, I think most companies will say that automation without collaboration has created systemic barriers. And we’ve seen this with companies that have moved their support offshore and they’ve automated their support and customers get so frustrated that they can’t get through to a real person. And I think companies are now coming back to the other understanding that they need to have direct contact. They need their customers to talk to them directly and not through these automated support processes. So it’s important to  understand the baseline of your company, your goals and values, and then build the accessibility into it so that the costs are part of your investment. They’re not part of a sideline accommodation for specific groups.

Sandi: So it sounds like if I think about accessibility in every part of my business, and make sure that I’m including accessibility considerations then it’s not going to necessarily cost me money. It might actually add to my bottom line because my processes will be more efficient. Is that pretty much it?

David: Absolutely yeah ’cause you know, fundamentally, accessibility is really all about market growth. So you want to achieve, you know, basic goals like sustainable growth, return on investment, profitability. These success indicators need to be measured, and how do you measure them? You measure them by, you know satisfaction. And how do you measure satisfaction? Well, you need to have ways of interacting with your customers. So think of accessibility as a public relations opportunity in interacting with your customer. So for example, if you integrate accessibility into your development cycle and your business processes, there’s going to be a more efficient flow of work.  And this will help a lot of business activities such as search engines, for example. Like search engines don’t necessarily know what’s in your videos and your audio files. It doesn’t know what’s in your pictures, but if you use the accessibility criteria for putting alt text and description and caption, all of a sudden people are going to start finding your site. And another thing is it improves your reach into the mobile sector, ’cause accessibility overlaps with I think, about 21 standards of the mobile development. Then you also improve access for people with low literacy or who speak another language. And a big one is improving access for people who have low bandwidth or older equipment. Because Canada is such a big country, we have a lot of areas where people are still using a narrow bandwidth and older technology. I think the big one is improving situations of environmental and temporary situations, like people that are in a noisy environment, you need text, people that have low lighting or people that have a temporary disability such as you know, a broken arm or something.

I think the big one though is the Google ranking. Google has recently updated their algorithm and accessibility is a big part of their ranking and I think if anything, if you implement accessibility, you’re going to see a big improvement in your Google ranking.

Sandi: I’ve often told people that Google is the biggest screen reader user on the planet. If Google can understand your site and read your content, then you’re in a good place. It also sounds to me like there is no downside to making your digital content accessible. It’s only going to benefit your organization rather than cost.

David: Absolutely, and that’s the critical point: is understanding how all these business processes and development interact with one another so that you have efficient process. And that’s really what the key is, to be more efficient and you become more efficient by integrating accessibility.