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How To Sell Accessibility

Trenton Moss

By now, we’ve all heard about Web accessibility and how important it is to us Internet users. You may think so, too. But how can you persuade your client, or your boss, that accessibility is worth it?

There’s always the argument of legal requirements for sites to be accessible, but, unless they’re Yahoo! or a business of equal stature, it’s pretty unlikely that this will ever affect your client. After all, there’s only been one recorded instance of any legal action arising from Web accessibility issues in the entire world.

But, you care about accessibility. You want all the sites you build to be as accessible as possible, and that means work. To the client, it means a higher project price. So, how can you justify the cost of accessibility?

The Business Case

There are two very good reasons why your client should start to think about Web accessibility:

  • An accessible Website will make your client money.
  • An accessible Website will save your client money.

Now, if that doesn’t get his attention, I don’t know what will. Here are eight ways in which accessibility will save or make your client money.

1. His Website will be easier to manage.

An accessible Website separates the content (HTML) and presentation (CSS) of each page. Wave goodbye to tables! Now, to adjust the layout of the Website, developers only need to make changes to the CSS file, rather than amending each and every page of the site, saving considerable time (and, therefore, money).

2. His Website will be compatible with new browsing technologies.

In the near future, PDAs, mobile phones and in-car browsers will all regularly be used to access the Internet. Do you think you client knows that some 58 million PDAs will be sold in 2008 alone? (source: eTForecasts).

The people making use of these new technologies are generally high-income individuals. To reach this lucrative audience, your client will need a Website that functions effectively on these machines. (Now would be a great time to show him just how bad his current Website looks like on a mobile phone, using the Wapalizer.)

3. His Website will appear higher in search engine rankings.

By making a Website more accessible to Web users, you also make it more accessible to search engines. Search engines can’t typically understand images, JavaScript, Flash, audio, or video content. Provide alternative content to each of these programs, and search engines will have a better understanding of the purpose of the Website.

The more confident a search engine is of what a Website’s about, all other things being equal, the higher it will rank that Website in its listings.

Does your client know that 64% of Internet users employ search engines as their main tool for finding things on the Internet? Be sure to tell him! (source: The Kelsey Group)

4. The download time of his Website will be significantly improved.

Just 17% of Web users are connected to the Internet via broadband in the UK. You can be sure that if your Website takes much longer than ten seconds to download, site visitors will be leaving in droves.

5. The usability of his Website will be enhanced.

There is a certain degree of overlap between Web accessibility and Web usability.

Usability guru Jakob Nielson has shown that a usability redesign increases the sales/conversion rate of a Website by 100%. Look for the dollar signs in your client’s eyes when you tell him this!

6. He’ll gain good publicity.

“Make your Website accessible to everyone, Mr. Client, and you can proudly announce it to the world!”

7. His site won’t cause his business to incur legal fees (or bad press).

Although the client has dismissed this as unimportant, now might be a good time to mention it, as he’ll be thinking about all that good PR he can get by ensuring his site is accessible.

The RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) and the DRC (Disability Rights Commission) have been exerting pressure on both commercial and government entities to make their Websites accessible. The DRC is currently investigating 1000 Websites to ascertain their accessibility. If your client’s Website is on this list, he can expect to hear from them soon.

8. He’ll increase his site’s reach.

This is a huge topic — let’s talk about it in detail.

Increase Reach via Accessibility

“Disabled people don’t access my Website,” your client might say. Why should I care?”

Well, Mr. Client, check out these statistics (for the UK):

  • There are 8.6 million registered disabled people in the UK, totaling 14% of the population (source: DRC)
  • One in 12 men, and one in 200 women, has some form of colour blindness, totaling 9% of the UK population (source: Institution of Electrical Engineers)
  • Two million UK residents have a sight problem — that’s 4% of the population (source: RNIB)
  • There are 12 million people aged 60 or over — some 21% of the UK population (source: UK government)

Now, there’s bound to be some overlap between these groups, but if you add up the numbers, you get a total of 48% of the UK population. That’s right — 48% of the population of the UK, not to mention those of other countries, could potentially face problems using your client’s Website.

Beyond Disabilities

Non-disabled people can also experience difficulties on Websites. Not everyone uses the latest version of Internet Explorer, with all the plug-ins and programs that are required for them to have optimal access to every site they come across.

If your clients’ Website relies on images, Flash or JavaScript, and fails to provide alternatives, then numerous Web users will be unable to access his site. Explain the following to your client:

  • Users on slow connections regularly turn images off to enable a quicker download time. Some browsers, such as the text-only Lynx browser, do not display images at all.
  • Not every user has downloaded the latest Flash plugin that is needed to view the site. Additionally, the download time on Flash Websites is often so long that low bandwidth users lose patience and don’t even wait to see the content. Remember, just 17% of Web users in the UK are connected to the Internet via broadband.
  • JavaScript is unsupported by about 4% of Web users, either because they’ve turned it off to prevent pop-up ads, or because their browsers don’t support it.
  • WebTV, mobile phones, and PDAs have limited support for large images, Flash and JavaScript. Check your client’s site by downloading the free WebTV viewer.
Will He Say, “Yes”?

With these kinds of arguments, the only type of person who’d say no to an accessible Website would be an unethical, money-hating individual. If your client’s one of them, I suggest you run.

Otherwise, hang in there, persuade him with these arguments, and perhaps a few examples of large, big-name sites that have already answered the accessibility call, and you’ll be on your way to landing a project you’ll be proud of!