Michael Nutley
Michael Nutley 30 November 2023

The Carrot of a Bigger Market is More Powerful Than the Stick of Legal Action in Driving Web Accessibility Investment, New Research Finds

Getting web accessibility right is a massive commercial opportunity. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.3bn people worldwide are living with some form of impairment. The benefits of making it easier for even some of them to use your web properties could be huge, including expanding your reach and improving web performance.

According to new research produced by London Research in partnership with digital experience provider Crownpeak, over two-thirds (69%) of businesses surveyed said increased business opportunities were a major driver of their investment in accessibility.

That compares to just over half (54%) who said the same about reducing the risk of litigation. Clearly, the threat – and possible cost – of legal action is less important to companies.

The State of Website Accessibility 2024 report found the majority of businesses (78%) are well aware of the opportunity offered by improved accessibility. More than four out of five (82%) estimated that a more accessible web estate could increase their revenue by up to 25%.

Investing in the Opportunity

Businesses are following up their understanding of the market with investment. Almost three-quarters of survey respondents (72%) said they plan to spend more on technology to improve accessibility in the next 12 months.

Over half intend to spend more with external partners (59%). A similar proportion said they’d be investing to improve their internal resources (54%).

The single biggest challenge businesses are looking to overcome is fragmented management of their digital estate. This can result in different web properties being at different levels of accessibility. It was rated a major challenge by 39% of respondents.

Other significant barriers are finding the right technology partner (cited by 35%); and lack of knowledge within the business of best practices around accessibility (34%).

But the underlying problem is a communication gap between those responsible for improving accessibility, and the C-suite. Almost two out of five respondents (38%) said proving the business case for improved accessibility was a major challenge. And a third (32%) said the same about the lack of senior executive buy-in.

Demonstrating the business case and potential ROI should lead to executive buy-in and more backing for implementation. It might also encourage a more coherent approach to the management of the online estate.

A Maturing Sector

Despite these barriers, survey respondents are bullish about their progress towards maturity in web accessibility. The majority rated themselves as ‘advanced’ in all areas covered by the survey. These ranged from understanding and complying with their legal responsibilities to having clear ownership and a consistent approach to accessibility across the business.

Three-quarters of companies are also already working with accessibility partners; a further 21% plan to do so. According to the survey, clients value the access this brings to solutions that save time and money, and to specialist know-how. Working with a partner also encourages the client to approach accessibility more strategically.

In addition, two-thirds of respondents said working with a partner helped show their commitment to improving compliance. This can be invaluable when dealing with legal claims that come in before compliance is finally achieved.

Based on these findings, the report recommends:

1. Educating your exec. This will pave the way for greater investment, increased resourcing and a more strategic approach. But you have to speak the language they understand.
2. Building the business case. Explain the potential costs and benefits. Outline how much investment you need, how it will be spent, and how you’ll measure success.
3. Encouraging a strategic approach. Establishing clear ownership of accessibility makes it easier to implement solutions at scale. It also helps get maximum value from any partners you work with.
4. Recognizing the limits of your knowledge. An experienced partner should help you with compliance, and provide skills and tools to boost your business performance. Such a partnership will also help prove your commitment to accessibility if you hit problems before you reach compliance.

The State of Website Accessibility 2024, by Crownpeak and London Research, is now available for download.

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