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Inaccessible websites dent business profits, as online shoppers ‘click away’

UK businesses are losing out on huge sums of money – potentially totalling billions of pounds – by failing to make their websites accessible to users with access needs, new research claims.

Published by disability consultancy Freeney Williams, the Click-Away Pound (CAP) Survey assessed the “online shopping experience of customers with disabilities, and the costs to business of ignoring them.”

The report revealed that 71% of disabled customers with access needs will ‘click away’ from a website that they find difficult to use. A key finding from the survey was that the spending power of these online shoppers who click away is £11.75 billion – money which is then spent elsewhere by those same shoppers, on sites that they can access.

Launching the survey results at an event in London to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Rick Williams – co-author of the survey and managing director of Freeney Williams – said: “As a business, why would you design a website that people can’t use? That £12 billion is displaced spending. It’s astonishing – the sheer size of that number surprised us. Businesses are losing opportunities for that money.”

The CAP Report also notes that, “Businesses need to bear in mind that if a disabled shopper clicks away from their site to one of their competitors, they show little inclination to return.”

The survey was initially launched in January (as reported in e-Access Bulletin issue 176: http://eab.li/48 ) and closed in July, collecting results from 362 participants. Some estimates from the report are based around applying trends found in the results to national level, using data from the Office of National Statistics, among other sources.

While the key messages behind the research will be familiar to many e-Access Bulletin readers, the findings will likely come as a surprise to many businesses. The CAP Survey claims that, “Most businesses will be unaware that they are losing income, because more than 90% of customers who have difficulty using a site will not contact them.”

In fact, the survey found that over 80% of online shoppers with access needs will choose to spend their money on websites with the fewest barriers in place for them, as opposed to the cheapest.

The five most common website problems identified by survey respondents were: crowded pages; poor link information; filling in forms; moving images or graphics; and poor legibility, including colour contrast and text layout.

Screen-readers were found to be the most common type of assistive technology (AT) used by respondents, with 53% of all respondents using some form of AT. As the CAP Survey points out, “No matter how sophisticated or efficient AT might be or how competent its user, unless a website is designed and developed to take access needs into account, the capacity of AT to overcome access barriers will always be limited.”

The report finishes by explaining that while the 2016 CAP Survey has “established a point of departure,” a follow-up survey is also planned for next year. The 2017 CAP Survey will examine the subject in relation to specific business sectors, and beyond the UK.

Read the Click-Away Pound Report in full, as a PDF or Word document, at the CAP website:
http://eab.li/49 .

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