The Business Case for Accessibility: How Inclusive Design Increases ROI

In today’s digital landscape, creating an inclusive online experience isn’t just a matter of social responsibility; it’s also a smart business move. As a full-service marketing agency, we’re constantly striving to reach wider audiences and drive higher returns on investment (ROI) for our clients in everything from social media to website designs. One of the most powerful strategies for achieving these goals is prioritizing online accessibility.

Accessibility in web design refers to ensuring that websites, applications, and digital content are usable by people of all abilities, including those with disabilities who use assistive technology to interact with the online world.  This encompasses factors such as screen reader compatibility, keyboard navigation, colour contrast, and more. By adopting accessible design principles and incorporating them from the start, businesses can tap into a vast market of users who might otherwise be excluded, while simultaneously reaping numerous benefits that positively impact their bottom line.

Here’s how web accessibility can lead to a significant increase in ROI.

Expanding Audience Reach

According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability. In Canada and the US, the statistics show that around 1 in 5 people, or 20 percent of the population, have a disability that impacts how they access the internet. According to the Rights of Disability advocacy group, when you look at the disabled population, seniors, non-native English speakers, and the social circles of people with disabilities, 73% of the population either wants or needs accessibility features. Extrapolating those numbers to a global scale, they estimate that this group has in the region of $13 trillion. On this scale, the question ceases to be “Why design for accessibility?” and instead changes to “Why not design for accessibility?”.

Improved User Experience (UX)

Accessibility features often enhance the overall user experience for everyone, not just those with disabilities. For instance, implementing clear navigation and intuitive design elements are both part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) however they also make it easier for all users to find what they’re looking for quickly. At cHaus, we are champions of user-centred design, which puts the needs of the user at the front of the digital experience, including those of users with disabilities. A positive user experience leads to higher engagement, increased time spent on site, and, ultimately, higher conversion rates.

Enhanced Brand Reputation

By demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility sends a powerful message about your brand values. When users encounter websites that are easy to navigate and meet their needs they are more likely to view the brand favourably and develop trust and loyalty over time. Conversely, users who encounter websites that are hard to use or inaccessible with the assistive technology they need, are highly likely to search for another website or company that meets their needs. People with disabilities often rely on informal networks or online disability groups to share news of accessible and inaccessible websites, services, and experiences. An assistive technology user who has a positive experience booking an airline ticket or completing an online purchase from a particular site is likely to share that site within the disability community and beyond creating a word-of-mouth campaign and brand loyalty that most marketers can only dream of.

Compliance with Regulations

Many countries, including Canada, have implemented accessibility laws and regulations governing digital content. In Ontario, where we are based, the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) states that all public sector organizations and any business or non-profit organization with 50 or more employees must have an accessible website. However, any organization of any size must make information available in an accessible manner on request, which means that all websites should be accessible to everyone.  By ensuring your website meets these standards, you mitigate the risk of legal repercussions and associated costs. 

SEO Benefits

Search engines like Google prioritize user experience when ranking websites. Many accessibility features, such as descriptive alt text for images and well-structured content, align with best practices for search engine optimization (SEO). By making your website more accessible, you can improve its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), driving organic traffic and potentially lowering customer acquisition costs. Conversely, sites with poor accessibility that are hard to navigate and are full of poorly structured content can have a high bounce rate, which has a negative impact on search rankings. 

Risks of Inaccessibility

We’ve discussed all the potential upsides of making your website accessible, but there’s another side of that coin – the risks of having an inaccessible website. If your website isn’t accessible you risk your users having a poor user experience. Studies have shown that if a user is frustrated by a website in some way such as a poorly labelled form that requires them to go back and re-type information, they are as likely to abandon the site as they are to go back and re-enter the information. Is that a risk you’re willing to take? You could also be subject to bad reviews, AODA complaints, fines, boycotts, and general negative publicity. Non-compliance with accessibility laws such as the AODA can result in fines, legal fees, and damage to brand reputation. A 2017 study showed that the cost of non-compliance with regulations in the digital sphere is roughly 2.7 times that of compliance – meaning that investing in accessibility is financially smart. 

There’s a misconception that online accessibility only helps users with disabilities. We hope that we have shown that this is not the case – it is a strategic business investment with tangible benefits. By prioritizing inclusive design, businesses can reach a broader audience, enhance user experience, strengthen brand reputation, comply with regulations, and improve SEO. In a competitive digital landscape, embracing accessibility isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s the smart thing to do for sustainable growth and ROI. If you need help in bringing your digital assets and content to accessibility compliance, improving your SEO performance, and increasing audience reach, contact us today.

The Business Case for Accessibility: How Inclusive Design Increases ROI