For four years now, we’ve polled professionals across industries and published a report capturing the state of digital accessibility. In our polling, we ask questions about things like accessibility program goals; what’s motivating individuals to pursue digital accessibility; do teams use scanning or monitoring tools and if so, which ones; what are their preferred testing practices; are their organizations budgeting for digital accessibility; and more.
Why do we do it? The results enable us to benchmark the general status of accessibility programs to track industry growth over time, understand where organizations are making investments, and arm individuals with data that may help them advocate for advancing accessibility within their own organizations.
What we’ve learned from our 2022 survey
Many 2022 trends are incredibly encouraging. Among them:
- Diversity and inclusion programs include accessibility. Approximately 89% of organizations have diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs. This is up from 83% in 2021. Even more encouraging—more than 64% of those D&I programs include digital accessibility. When organizations think about inclusion, more are including digital accessibility as part of that thinking.
- Program governance is more centralized. What does this mean? Digital accessibility has a home with organizational focus and accountability. It rolls into one department for 44% of our respondents. This is a big and encouraging jump from almost 31% in 2021.
- Funding is firming. In 27% of organizations, budgets also roll up to one department. This is up from 21% in 2021. With firmer, more centralized funding, accessibility is a supported organizational priority.
- Accessibility testing is taking place earlier. More than 67% of respondents test for accessibility during the CI/CD (continuous integration / continuous delivery) process, which is up from 56% in 2021. And when testing happens earlier, bugs are caught earlier, and the entire process is more efficient and less expensive.
- Accessible products are a must. Our survey reveals almost 74% of product buyers prioritize accessibility when purchasing a product, which is a steady increase: up from 55.2% in 2020 and 71.4% in 2021. Further, almost 59% of buyers require proof of product accessibility in the form of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template—or VPAT®, which is up from 52.9% in 2021. So, heads up if you’re building a product you’re trying to sell, it’s now more crucial than ever to show how accessibility has factored into your product.
Applying these learnings into 2023
How do you use this data to advance your organization’s accessibility program? Or, if you don’t yet have a program, how do you advocate for building one, internally?
Our CEO Tim Springer offers four key takeaways:
- Tell the story—differently. So often, digital accessibility is a conversation about compliance: how to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements; how to respond to an ADA lawsuit or demand letter; or how to avoid legal action altogether. But at its core, digital accessibility is a story about inclusion. It’s about ensuring every user has equal access to navigate digital experiences. Align accessibility with your inclusion programs, and you’re sure to garner C-suite support .
- Give digital accessibility a home within your organization. If you tell the story effectively and secure internal buy-in, it has to “live” within a logical department. Largely, it doesn’t matter which department. And once it’s got its home—or is centralized—you can then allocate funding in order for your program to be successful. Once you have governance and funding established, you’ll have ownership and accountability.
- Create a plan. Come up with a strategy and a roadmap, and implement them. Historically, addressing digital accessibility has been reactive, a response to getting a lawsuit or needing a VPAT. As we’re seeing the market mature, this reactive approach is not sustainable, and it does not lend itself to consistently creating the best possible user experience. Your accessibility strategy should be connected to your long-term product or content roadmap so that you’re improving the user experience over time. That maturity will get you to the state of what we call “accessible by default.” At this point, accessibility just becomes your standard approach when creating, designing, and building.
- Shift left. Teams thinking about accessibility often do so in the testing phase of their product development lifecycle. When bugs are found in that late stage, fixing them is time-consuming and costly (not to mention frustrating). Catching them earlier in the creative process , or shifting left, is more efficient, cost-effective, and predictable. If you’re incorporating accessibility earlier and more often, it’s more likely to consistently lead to a good outcome.
To get more analysis from Tim, request our on-demand webinar, The State of Digital Accessibility: Key insights from 2022 and best practices for 2023
We’re here to help
Our platform and services provide all of the tooling, technology, and expertise to tackle the technical aspects of digital accessibility. But our team is also here to help start and grow internal programs, turning passion into advocacy, and advocacy into action. So whether you need help advocating for an accessibility program, taking the first step to get one started, or maturing an existing program, we’re on your side. Engage with our team today .
eSSENTIAL Accessibility has changed its name to Level Access! Read More