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Posted May 19, 2022

Bad Press, Litigation and Exclusion: Why Inclusive Design Must Be Accessible


Around the beginning of the year, I was asked my thoughts on overarching trends in DevOps for 2022. Some of the things I mentioned include AI, the shift-left/shift-right in test, more scrutiny in security, and the evolving need for simultaneous quality and speed you have likely read about on our blog and other publications that cover the DevOps space. However, the trend I mentioned that I have seen the most momentum behind as of late has been the need for accessibility.

When our Every Experience Matters report dropped last month it became clear that one of the largest failings in consumer experience was a lack of accessibility. In a world where nearly one billion people (15% of the global population) experience some form of disability, it’s clear that this is a major issue and not something that exists on the margins. 

Accessibility needs to be a top-level discussion point in development and testing--it is every bit as vital as other areas of testing (performance, security, functional, etc), and by not embracing this change, companies are not only excluding whole percentage points of the potential audience, but they risk opening themselves up to litigation and bad press. The recent fervor over accessibility is only going to get stronger in the coming months and years.

Those of you that attended this year’s SauceCon may have noticed that accessibility was a significant theme. I had a fabulous time moderating a Keynote between Crystal Preston-Watson, Judy Weader, and Dr. Rachel Bradley Montgomery. I encourage you to check it out on-demand, but the key takeaway is that to create an inclusive user experience, we need to consider accessibility during design.

Flawed design leads to a flawed experience. For example, let’s consider the folks that use assistive tech. Consumers who report using assistive technology to browse the internet (screen readers, tactile keyboards) experience more frequent errors and user experience issues. Sixty-two percent of those who use assistive tech say they frequently experience errors on a given day (compared to 38% of general web users) and 44% of those who use this tech experience errors that stop them from accomplishing a task once a day. 

Taking into account the different types of assistance needed to make a product accessible (ie screen magnification) we can build that into our design flow and test for it. And yes, testing for accessibility is something Sauce Labs can help with. Check out Dylan Barrell’s SauceCon breakout session about Accessibility testing here.

It’s easier to correct a mistake before it happens–the same is true with accessibility, which is why a proactive strategy will provide the best overall user experience for the widest array of users.

Now, the last idea I will leave you with is a slight bit of math, a formula for success if you will. Much of the writing behind accessibility will focus on the altruism behind providing an inclusive mobile app or browser page. Some of it will be fearmongering, discussing the lawsuits, and negative publicity you could face if your product is deemed to be discriminatory. Those are both true, having an inclusive product is the right thing to do and it can also shield you from some form of litigation. But the number one reason your business should prioritize accessibility is the sheer volume of consumers you are excluding with an inaccessible product. The business impact of cutting out 15% of the population as potential prospects or customers is astonishing. Think about it: if your software is accessible and your competitors’ software isn’t, you could potentially take more than 15% more of the market–you take 15% of THE WHOLE PIE. Conversely, if your competitors’ software is accessible and yours isn’t, they’re taking YOUR 15%. Competing over market share is rarely so clear-cut. Take the extra steps now to provide the best experience later. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Photograph of Marcus Merrell.
Test Strategist
May 19, 2022
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