♿ ️🚀 ️5 reasons why now is the best time to pursue accessibility with your product [team]

Today (the third Thursday in May) marks the 10th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), and May is known as accessibility awareness month. With continuously mounting support for the accessibility industry as a whole, here are 5 reasons that 2021 is the right time for individuals and their organizations to take product accessibility more seriously.

1. Accessibility lawsuits are on the rise in 2021

(image: blog.usablenet.com)

According to a usablenet.com article legal battles over digital accessibility are only heating up with new records set each year. 2020 saw a 23% increase in digital accessibility cases which cited the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Plaintiffs keep finding websites rife with accessibility issues and it’s no surprise from looking at the latest annual WebAIM research report. The recent report found that 97.3% of the top 1,000,000 websites’ home pages had detectable failures against Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

2. The World Health Organization added assistive tech benchmarks in 2021

With 1 billion people in 2021 that need assistive technology(AT) globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched an official resolution urging all Member States to take actions to improve access to AT. The resolution also comes with new benchmarks that are now tracked in new ongoing global reports.

Assistive technology is one of only 5 official areas of work on the WHO website and represents a key element of its Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

This global effort to push for assistive technology (such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, walking frames, reading glasses and prosthetic limbs) highlights the importance of building robust & accessible products and services with AT interoperability in mind. This is what designing for accessibility is all about.

See the official announcement: https://www.who.int/news/item/07-04-2021-who-launches-progress-indicators-to-measure-access-to-assistive-technology

3. Accessibility related jobs are booming in 2021

Companies are creating and hiring more and more accessibility specific roles than ever before. It could be that my own accessibility network has simply grown this year, but I personally noticed an incredible increase in roles with the word accessibility in the title.

The most common openings appear to be Accessibility Engineers who build accessible products, but nearly every department has roles specifically requesting accessibility expertise. Here is just a small sample of the titles from 100s of active listings I see today (in SF alone):

  • Product Manager — Compliance and Accessibility (Verizon)
  • Accessibility Program Manager (Adobe)
  • Senior Accessibility Specialist (EPAM Systems)
  • Staff Program Manager — Accessibility (Twitter)
  • Senior Accessibility Analyst
  • Frontend Accessibility Remediation Engineer
  • Senior Accessibility Researcher (Resume Library)
  • Braille Accessibility Software Engineer (Apple)
  • Project Coordinator, Accessibility Team (Twitter)
  • Product Lead, Inclusion & Accessibility (Uber)

To find the latest accessibility openings, follow @a11yjobs on Twitter, or check out a11yjobs.com.

On the flip-side, hiring people with disabilities might be the most effective shortcut to building a more inclusively minded product team. Needless to say, making sure your hiring process is accessible can be a fantastic starting point.

4. The world’s population continues to age

Not a new stat, but one that gets more important each year:

Every single day in the US there are some 10,000 people who turn 65 years old.

The baby-boomer generation is enormous already and the above trend has carried on every single day for nearly 10 years. With birth rates in steady decline since the mid 1960s, the world’s population continues to grow older in average age every day. This aging trend steadily increases the demand for accessible products that cater to impairments related to aging (including low vision and loss of hearing).

You can find more on the US census website: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/12/by-2030-all-baby-boomers-will-be-age-65-or-older.html

5. The right side of history is a good place to be

In 2021, a brand’s ethics and social responsibility can influence purchasing decisions and loyalty for many millennials — a generation transitioning into their prime earning and spending years.

Being a responsible brand, and a responsible designer/PM/engineer means also making commitments to ensure your products don’t exclude already marginalized populations. Internal and public commitments from brand leaders like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Apple’s Tim Cook have been setting an example for the industry to follow.

You can find several hundred examples of corporate accessibility statements compiled into a nice list by Jack McElaney and his team at MicroAssist: https://www.microassist.com/digital-accessibility/accessibility-in-the-news-accessibility-statement-pages/

Conclusion

Aside from the risk of expensive lawsuits (see #1), and the incentive to be a trusted corporate citizen, building accessible products is a strategy for increased usability among all demographics, especially the growing population. In 2021 product accessibility is increasingly a strategy for product success. Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day 🎉 🎉 ♿ ️♿️

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