Clearly, web content and mobile apps are a necessity for doing business today—you need to reach your customers, and they need to reach you. The challenge we face is how to reach all of our customers.
There’s is a large segment of customers many companies need to include but haven’t considered. One part of this group is 58 million in number and has a buying power estimated at over $247 billion dollars: people with disabilities. Another segment is more than 77 million strong and has an annual disposable income of $2 trillion: our aging population.
According to the National Organization on Disability, Baby Boomers who are 45 to 54 have an 11.5% chance of developing a disability or impairment; that number jumps to 21.9% for those 55 to 64. Typically, these impairments include diminished vision, hearing, and dexterity and flexibility. Of course, it’s not just the US market that’s in play here. There are an estimated 1 billion disabled people worldwide.
There’s also a legal aspect to consider in failing to reach the disabled. The most recent case was announced at the end of September: Department of Justice Reaches Settlement Agreement to Ensure Access for Persons with Disabilities in Galveston County, Texas. Although the main focus of this settlement is on physical access to county facilities, the agreement requires the county to ensure its website and other web-based services conform to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
Back in July, the DOJ applied ADA Title III to Carnival’s cruise ships, website and mobile app. The two part decision focused on physical accommodations and web and mobile apps. Their websites and mobile applications must confirm to WCAG 2.0, level AA.
With the negative exposure and fines that can be imposed on them due to DOJ litigations, companies cannot afford to not act. But the negative aspect is not the only one to consider. We’ve seen many cases where companies reaped significant benefits from applying these guidelines to their websites and mobile apps—in the form of increased market share and customers.
Often, the biggest question for companies is: where do we start? There are many good resources on the web for learning about the skills and tools required. Sometimes, just asking IT staff or service providers can go a long way toward learning who and what you currently have on staff or under contract to begin adding inclusion to your processes.
As I heard from a senior executive recently, “It is not a matter of whether we can afford to do this, it is a matter of if we can afford not to.” The value to your company and clients not only makes good business sense, it also ensures your company’s reputation will not tarnished by inaction in the area of accessibility.