Organisations should not use the economic downturn as a reason not to carry out work to make their websites more accessible to people with disabilities, a leading analyst said this week.
In fact there is extensive evidence that an economic downturn is a good time to increase such activity, with significant opportunities to increase market share, Ted Page of PWS web services told the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘Nothing But The Net’ conference (www.lawscot.org.uk/update/NBTN).
“A study published by McKinsey in 2002 found one of the most significant differences between the most and least profitable firms over the economic cycle was with respect to their spending on marketing and advertising during the recession period,” he said.
“Far from battening down the hatches when the economy turned down, the best performers actually increased spending in these areas, not just relative to their competitors but also compared to their own spending in better economic times. There have been many similar studies that have come to broadly the same conclusions.”
A recent survey by PWS found more than 80 per cent of professional services firms are failing to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act with respect to their websites, despite the costs of fixing accessibility problems generally being moderate or low, Page said.
Fixing problems would enable companies to better reach 10 million disabled people in the UK, with £80 billion annual spending power, he said. It also offers better access to people using mobile web devices which are not designed to cope with inaccessible websites; and could improve access to the £160 billion a year public sector procurement market which encourages and may soon be made dependent on accessibility of goods and services purchased.
There is one final reason why accessibility should not be ignored, Page said – Google. “It is in no way controversial to state that an accessible website is almost always a Google-friendly one. When Google comes to index your web content it navigates in much the same way that a blind person using screen reader does. It is for good reason that Google is often referred to as the “big blind billionaire”. Shut it out at your peril.”
For a full copy of Page’s talk see: