There’s little doubt that website accessibility is a huge discussion for organizations doing online business. However, convincing stakeholders who make the final decisions to invest in accessibility is still a colossal challenge. At the end of the day, it’s euros, pounds, dollars, kroner, and yen (to name a few) that make the real case for change.

With that in mind, let’s get into some of those numbers!

How many consumers with disabilities are there, really?

It’s a commonly cited statistic in accessibility circles that roughly 20% of online users worldwide have some form of disability, a figure supported by multiple studies. The highest concentration of users with disabilities—15% to 20%—have dyslexia or other reading difficulties. Up to seven percent of adults have dexterity impairments, while three to five percent have visual or hearing issues that impact the online experience. Color blindness varies widely depending on sex and ethnic background, with the largest representation being men of Northern European ancestry at around eight percent.

To think that one in five consumers represents a considerable portion of web traffic is easily evidenced when you look at hard numbers. Research estimates that nearly 1.8 billion people around the world will shop online in 2018. Let’s consider that the 3% of users with blindness or other visual disabilities plan to holiday shop online. This figure alone translates to approximately 54 million consumers, and they should not be left out of your website equation. In the United States, 25.5 million adults experience vision loss. With 93% of blind Americans using screen readers, 23.7 million potential shoppers depend on accessible websites to conduct business. Keeping in mind that visually impaired users make up the smallest segment of the above-mentioned groups of people with disabilities, it’s evident that a non-accessible website impacts a significant number of consumers. As the world’s population continues to age—the United Nations projects that the number of people 60 and older will triple by 2050. Therefore, the percentage of users with disabilities continues to grow.

In the midst of the holiday shopping season, the impact becomes all the more pronounced. Online U.S. shopping in November and December of 2017 accounted for more than $106 billion in revenue. That’s an increase of nearly $15 billion from the previous year. A similar swell is expected in 2018. About 60% of consumers plan on using the internet for holiday shopping this year, up five percent from 2017. One of the bitter ironies of retail accessibility is that businesses that provide equal access to customers inside their physical stores don’t always apply that same attention to their online operations. Overlooking website accessibility is not an option for retailers who hope to stay competitive.

Is website accessibility really that big a deal?

Even in the face of all those statistics, it still happens that some retailers shift responsibility onto consumers. The notion of “if our products and prices are good enough, people will figure out how to get at them” is outdated at best. In reality, users with disabilities aren’t so forgiving of sites that ignore their needs. Studies show that 71% of people with disabilities are likely to abandon a site that does not meet their accessibility requirements. This number represents tens of millions of potential customers who might choose one of your competitors.

Beyond alienating consumers, a non-accessible website poses regulatory hazards for organizations. Many countries, including Australia, Canada, and the European Union, adopted the World Wide Web Consortium’s WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines into law. These regulations bring stiff fines and penalties for websites that fail to meet those standards. While the United States has not incorporated WCAG into its legal system, accessibility lawsuits skyrocketed the past several years. Combine the danger of losing customers with the threat of fines and lawsuits and the financial benefits of accessibility become all the more evident.

Curious to see how the 10 biggest retailers scored ?

The 10 biggest online retailers illustrate how well—or not—the industry is performing as a whole in terms of website accessibility.  The average accessibility score of these retailers as determined by Siteimprove Digital Certainty Index (DCI™) is 58.8. Overall, work clearly needs to be done.

Graphic stating that 58,8 is the average accessibility score of the 10 biggest online retailers

Isn’t website accessibility expensive?

Providing equal access may not be as costly as you think. Fines, settlements, and loss of reputation are potentially more costly than investing in accessibility measures. There are a number of free browser extensions on the market, such as the Siteimprove Accessibility Checker for Google Chrome, that scan your site for accessibility issues and point you toward appropriate fixes. For longer-term solutions, a paid tool like the Siteimprove Accessibility suite offers a reasonably priced way to assess your content with regularly scheduled, automated scans that check for common accessibility issues.

The bottom line is that in an era where online retail represents an ever-growing portion of the holiday shopping market, there is simply no excuse for letting accessibility fall by the wayside. Customers with disabilities deserve the same online experience as any other user, and organizations that fail to provide that may be setting themselves up for harsh consequences.