In the UK alone the ‘purple pound’ is worth around £249 billion. Globally, the combined spending power of disabled people is reported to be, a staggering, $6 trillion. As these figures only take into account people who live with a permanent disability, and not anyone who may be experiencing a temporary or situational impairment, it is undoubtedly a conservative estimate. Add to this the projected growth figures due to an ageing population and you have to wonder why companies are not focusing more of their time and effort on attracting and servicing the needs of this valuable market.
One key reason, is that businesses considering ways to make their products or services more accessible to the disabled, are often primarily motivated by avoiding the legal consequences that inaction would bring. While ensuring compliance with equality and accessibility legislation is of course important, focusing on this alone can be short sighted. There is a much stronger business case for accessibility which can see an ROI achieved not only through legal protection but by increasing revenues, improving brand loyalty and providing a better customer experience for everyone.
Organizations that view accessibility as a strategic investment are consistently rewarded. Apple, for example, did not produce the first smart phone to offer features for the blind and visually impaired. However, from the iPhone 3 onwards they made accessibility central to their identity as a company, and this has enabled them to attract and retain a very loyal customer base of disabled users. In fact the iPhone is so highly regarded amongst this group that you’d be forgiven for thinking that Apple brought accessibility to the market first.
Others companies too, find that putting accessibility at the heart of their product or service design brings a broader range of business benefits. Creators of accessible websites for example, find that improving the quality of their metadata, to meet accessibility standards, brings about a boost to their natural SEO. As a result, their increased prominence in internet search engines helps them attract new customers while improving the usability for their disabled client base.
Building accessibility into the digital services that a company offers can have many benefits for non-disabled users too. Customers who find their vision, hearing, cognition or motor function ‘temporarily’ or ‘situationally’ impaired through illness or injury, or by simply trying to operate one handed while juggling a coffee or driving to work, can all benefit from accessibility features. Additions such as subtitles, audio descriptions, large text, voice commands and keyboard navigation, all of which were primarily aimed at disabled customers, make digital content easier to consume for everyone. Many of the most important developments of our time from the typewriter to the audio book, to the driverless cars of tomorrow have been designed to improve the lives of disabled people, but ultimately improve the lives of us all.
To ignore accessibility is, in a sense, to ignore innovation. And sidelining a market worth at least $6 trillion is a ‘business strategy’ that companies would do well to avoid.
Crawford Technologies works with companies around the world, providing software solutions that help them to meet their digital accessibility goals and improve the lives of all their customers.