The cost of accessibility

Carlos Eriksson makes a business case for accessibility, and reveals the real cost of ignoring it

Advocating the need for accessibility to business-owners often stirs up fears of increased costs. The social responsibility — the web is for everyone after all — should motivate them, but in reality that’s often not enough. The legal requirements (the Equality Act 2010) and risk of lawsuits should be enough to deter them from excluding people, but looking at the web landscape it’s clear that’s not enough either.

Maybe it’s time we, as designers and developers, bring the importance of accessibility to the attention of business-owners in a language they understand. The reality is that ignoring accessibility is actually costing them in lost potential profit every year.

Let’s look at some statistics. According to FSB, the average small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME) in the UK employs 4.8 people and has an average turnover of £673,000 every year. 20 per cent of people in the UK (12.6 million), have some form of sensory disability. With most websites failing to meet basic compliance, you’re saying, ‘No thanks’ to £168,000 every year.

The reality of accessibility

But accessibility isn’t about people with disabilities or meeting criteria on a list, it’s about people. People like you and me. Because people of all ages, ethnicities and abilities can enjoy inclusive design. 49.3 per cent of people in the UK (31.2 million) — are 40 years or over. As we age, our eyes’ ability to focus degrades; a condition called presbyopia. We begin to struggle to focus and read small prints, and reading copy with poor contrast becomes difficult.

Oliver Reichenstein writes that “web design is 95 per cent typography” , but none of that matters when 50 per cent of your audience struggles to read the copy on your website. Imagine something as small — but significant — as text contrast alienating half of your potential customers.

These aren’t people with disabilities, they are simply, for lack of a better word, old. And thanks to constant advancements in medicine this percentage is only growing and growing.

We see companies pouring their time and effort into social media and SEO, and ignoring accessibility. It’s an area where your competitors are as behind as you are, and the potential gains from redirecting this energy into accessibility are significant. As an average SME, ignoring accessibility is costing you and your business tens of thousands of pounds in lost turnover every year. Maybe it’s time we considered the true cost of accessibility?

Carlos is a multilingual designer and frontend developer who believes accessibility can exist in the heart of form and function, without compromising either


This article originally appeared in issue 274 of net magazine.