Digital accessibility often gets talked about as an activity, something that’s conducted at a project level and mostly handled by technical teams.
However, what is digital accessibility at its core? What is it without discussing its benefits such as SEO improvements, development savings and legal risk management?
Great digital accessibility gives people with disabilities the ability to experience something with an equivalent depth and completeness as everyone else. It has its foundations in equality, empathy, and what’s just plain right to do, but all of those are simply factors in crafting an equivalent, excellent experience.
So we are saying clearly that digital accessibility is, by default, an integral part of Customer Experience (CX), because CX is the sum of the experiences of all of your customers. (Billy Gregory noted the inverse, where missing accessibility SUX!) By extension, to deliver great overall CX, you must deliver great accessibility.
Is this so revolutionary an idea? It shouldn't be, but from our experience we believe it is. Many organisations tend not to think of digital accessibility in this holistic way. They treat it as that technical activity, a “side project” or tick box, which means—and here’s the kicker—their CX, and consequently their commercial performance, suffers as a result. In this article we'll look at why.
Digital accessibility widens your reach
First, let’s consider measurement. Customer Experience has associated KPIs such as Customer Satisfaction and Churn, but many organisations measure digital accessibility solely with checklists and guidelines. This means that the commercial impact of accessibility is often completely overlooked, leaving senior stakeholders with no way to measure accessibility ROI and understand its role in commercial success.
When you have an audience of over 14 million people in the UK alone benefitting from accessible solutions, you want to know that your accessibility efforts are proactively supporting that massive potential customer base. However, without CX-focused measures, the outcomes and impact of your accessibility efforts are vague at best, and more difficult for management to support.
Digital accessibility needs to be an integral part of your next project
Next, what about the quality of your digital accessibility activities in projects? When the accessibility goalposts are checklists, it doesn’t take much to tick a box. However, if accessibility is thought about in the same way as Customer Experience then you approach it in a far more holistic manner.
You conduct accessibility testing sessions, you research audience needs, and you continuously improve your design and development techniques. The quality of your accessibility efforts can only improve as a result, which again, in turn, elevates your delivered CX.
Everyone plays a part in delivering digital accessibility
What level of integration can accessibility enjoy when it’s considered part of Customer Experience? Often employees will respect the idea of accessibility but will not recognise their individual roles in its success when, for example, they believe it’s only something that “happens” during coding.
However, when everyone improves accessibility as an extension of customer-focused thinking—from acting on accessibility-focused customer feedback to integrating accessibility into brand strategy to escalating identified accessibility issues—then you have an entire organisation on the side of all customers and their needs. (You may be interested in this article which explores how we worked with NHS UK to define the accessibility responsibilities for the design and development process.)
What we hope becomes clear is that great accessibility requires that you move from it being something you do, to something you’re capable of delivering as an organisation, all as part of a commitment to excellent Customer Experience.
We’ve talked about three aspects of accessibility in this article: measurement, activities and integration. These are three of what we call the Six Scales of Experience, along with skills, infrastructure and leadership.
Our Accessibility Assessment, which is free to try and has a complimentary white paper that accompanies it, goes into more detail about how great accessibility requires you to be capable of that greatness in all Six Scales. Whatever your next step, we hope you are able to start the journey in your organisation towards a more mature view of accessibility. Many aren’t on this journey, so the land ahead is fertile.
Do you have questions? Feedback? Want to discuss your situation or your best next step? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)117 929 7333. Alternatively, try the free Accessibility Assessment tool to get your indicative scoring instantly.