Cost can often be a common concern for employers and businesses when it comes to making changes toward accessibility. Physical changes to buildings, such as wheelchair ramps, can seem cost-prohibitive, and digital accessibility can seem like an added expense with little reward.
However, being inclusive and accessible is worth the investment. And the benefits of providing accessibility far outpace any costs that may arise from doing so. It is crucial to focus on the future when considering the potential benefits of being accessible.
Accessibility boosts reputation
As any good business owner knows, reputation is everything. Customers are far more likely to trust companies with a good reputation and far more likely to dump those with a poor track record in various areas, including accessibility. In 2019, Parkwood Entertainment was sued for poor accessibility. The lawsuit stated that the website lacked accessible features such as alt-text for people with vision loss and legal blindness.
Later on, in 2022, Beyonce–who owns Parkwood Entertainment–would go on to change a song lyric that was accused of being ableist. It’s unclear whether this change was solely prompted by the accusations or partially due to the prior lawsuit, but the public widely lauded the change. It was probably expensive to re-release the CDs, vinyls, and other merchandise containing the offensive lyric. But she did so in the interest of inclusivity.
On the other hand, mere days after Beyonce removed that lyric, Eminem released a new song featuring an ableist lyric that he refused to change. People were infuriated by his refusal. And despite Beyonce using a similar word, people did not rally behind him. His already shaky reputation took a hit while hers improved significantly.
Accessibility saves money
Spending the money to ensure accessibility from the start will save your company money down the road by avoiding lawsuits and ADA-mandated changes. Though it may be stressful to budget for the additional costs, it’s better to implement accessibility while a website is being built rather than having to fix things later.
The Target Corporation learned this the hard way. The National Federation of the Blind sued them in 2008, arguing that their website was inaccessible, as purchases could not be made without a mouse, which prevented people with vision disabilities from using screen readers to access essential website features. This could have been prevented had Target budgeted for and invested in accessibility when building their website, but instead, they chose not to and had to settle for six million dollars.
Accessibility increases customer reach
61 million US adults live with a disability. It is a near guarantee that some of your customers have a disability, and ensuring that your services are accessible and inclusive is the least you can do to reach every single one of them. Every investment you make in accessibility is an opportunity to drive more business to your company.
Think of it this way: if the only thing standing in the way of a 25% increase in sales was the lack of captions on the videos on your website, wouldn’t you immediately add those captions? That’s how much one simple accessibility adjustment can do to expand your customer base. It may seem like a lot of work for little reward, but it will pay back dividends in the long run.
Though the up-front costs of investing in accessibility can seem daunting, the truth is that the benefits far outweigh those costs in the long run. Avoiding lawsuits, increasing your customer base, and boosting your company’s reputation are all benefits of making those changes toward accessibility and inclusion.