Lost Billions: Why The Web Accessibility Initiative Is So Important For Businesses

Lost Billions: Why The Web Accessibility Initiative Is So Important For Businesses

Neglect the disabled market at your peril. Businesses are losing billions by ignoring the guidelines outlined in the Web Accessibility Initiative and failing to make their websites accessible.

Why is it important to create accessible online content?

First and foremost, it shows that a business or service provider cares for its audience.

Failing to accommodate disabled users means about 1 billion people around the world are not given the same treatment as the rest of the site's visitors.

Whether it's a company website, blog, or a post on a video-sharing platform, disregarding accessibility can have a considerable impact on views, session times, and bounce rates —some of the key indicators for the amount of time people spend on the site.

How is disability defined?

Disability comes in many shapes and forms. 

It may be a temporary injury like a broken wrist hindering your ability to type, whereas severe issues such as permanent cognitive and visual impairments are classified as long-term disabilities. 

It is also worth noting that the chances of having disabling conditions become greater as we get older: almost half of over 60s experience some sort of moderate to severe disability. 

Woman in wheelchair using laptop in cafe

How is neglecting disabled internet users costing businesses?

Around 70% of disabled internet users will simply leave a website if they find it inaccessible. 

According to the Click-Away Pound Survey, poor web accessibility cost UK companies 17.1 billion GBP in 2019. 

The study also shows that many major retailers are unaware that standards for supporting disabled people online even exist. 

The figure above should leave business owners and online service vendors alarmed, considering around 15% of the world's population has some form of disability. 

If most disabled visitors decide to leave a site and never return, businesses are missing out on the chance to convert a sizable market into a solid customer base.

What numbers are at stake?

In the United States, disabled consumers control around half a trillion dollars in disposable income each year.

Businesses administering inaccessible websites are unlikely to see their cut of this considerable pool of spending money.

And with the legal landscape recently shifting in Europe, there's no better time than now for businesses to get clued up on the Web Accessibility Initiative.

What is the Web Accessibility Initiative?

The Web Accessibility Initiative was set up to give businesses a better understanding of disabled users' needs online.

In short, the Web Accessibility Initiative comprises strategies, standards, and resources to make the internet more accessible.

web accessibility initiative

What are the guidelines businesses can follow?

One of the most important sets of standards within the Web Accessibility Initiative is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

This aims to make content more accessible for people with a wide range of disabilities, such as hearing loss, vision impairment, cognitive disability, and motor impairment.

How is the WCAG structured?

The WCAG is based on four main principles:

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust

These guidelines are then subdivided into WCAG success criteria. Here are a few examples:

1.4.4 Resize Text: Text can be scaled up so that it can read by a user with visual disabilities.

1.4.5 Images of Text: Real text is used instead of images of text, so that screen readers are able to detect what is written.

2.3.2 Three Flashes: To reduce the chance of seizures, the website does not contain any content that flashes three times within a one-second period.

web accessibility initiative 2

Do these guidelines help all website users?

Accessible websites tend to be easier to use for everyone

As well as benefitting deaf and hard of hearing viewers, subtitles are also popular with the general population online.

85% of video content on Facebook is watched without the sound on. 

This is unsurprising when considering 80% of UK TV watchers have used closed captions for reasons other than hearing loss.

So the Web Accessibility Initiative also takes video content into consideration?

In recent years, there has been a marked shift to video for online content, especially on social media.

The requirements are outlined in the WCAG, namely under the success criteria for captions and audio description

This is to ensure videos are accessible for the deaf, blind, hearing impaired, and visually impaired.

What is the situation with captions and audio description?

While closed captions are thriving online, audio description continues to lag increasingly further behind. 

An audio description involves a narrator providing important visual details that cannot be understood from the main soundtrack alone.

Microphone set up in a recording studio with sound engineer in the background

Why isn't there enough content provided with audio description?

The main reason for its lack of availability online is money.

Audio description requires numerous costly stages of production, from hiring scriptwriters and voice artists to recording studios and sound engineers.

For low-budget productions which make up the vast majority of videos posted online, it makes little financial sense to create an accompanying audio description.

And with hundreds of hours' worth of footage being uploaded onto video-sharing platforms every minute, the accessibility gap is continually getting wider for internet users with visual impairments.

But with EU law having been reinforced in September 2020, businesses and media service providers, supported by their governments, will now have to find ways to catch up.

So businesses are legally obliged to provide accessible websites and video content?

Yes. Lack of accessibility could land businesses in legal hot water

Two years ago, the UsableNet research team recorded 2,235 lawsuits against companies for digital inaccessibility. 

In 2017, supermarket chain Winn-Dixie was sued because screen readers wouldn't work on the company website. 

web accessibility initiative 1

What options do businesses have for audio description and video accessibility?

Berlin-based tech company VIDEO TO VOICE has developed a cost-effective and intuitive platform for creating accessible videos. 

The platform comprises authoring and production tools, allowing the user to work on everything involved in creating an audio description alone. 

Instead of voice artists, the audio description is read out using state-of-the-art synthetic voices

Sound engineering is also taken care of with AI technology with rapid turnaround times. 

Summary - what have we learnt?

With laws being tightened and legal action on the increase, businesses have no choice but to embrace digital accessibility. At the same time, this is a great opportunity to expand into the still largely underutilised disabled market. For anything concerning audio description and video accessibility, VIDEO TO VOICE is on hand to help businesses every step of the way. 

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