Don't do it because it is the law...

Accessibility laws that require accessible websites are there to take care of the laggards, the companies and organizations that don’t know what is good for them, the ones that don’t have the foresight and understanding to look out for their own health and survival. It is for the corporations that are equivalent to kids that fail to brush their teeth.

Do it out of enlightened self-interest. Make it an unconscious habit that happens by default. Do it to lead, in all the ways you aspire to lead.

Designing a Web site inclusively means you have created a site that is welcoming of diversity and prepared to respond to the unanticipated, whether that is a new device that has flooded the market, a change in a browser, or a customer requirement you didn’t expect. It means you don’t need to rebuild from scratch whenever you want to slightly rebrand or fit in a new function; or when you want to expand to new markets and need to translate. Designing for customers and employees that require alternative access systems means your site is interoperable with all the many different devices and browsers someone may wish to use to visit your site.

It also means that customers and employees can actually use your site and find what they are looking for. An accessible site is well formed, with signposts to orient you as you navigate through it, organizational structure that supports this navigation, and labels that can be used to quickly retrieve what you want and explain what you are encountering. If you really want to excel in good customer service, you can even create a site that responds to the personal needs and preferences of your customer.

The easiest way to establish a good habit is to integrate it into your daily routine before you have to break a bad habit. This means making it a natural part of your corporate culture, and a part of your standard workflow, right from the very beginning.

When you design your site, regularly include the perspectives of people that have difficulty using your current design or can’t use your current site. Invite them as co-designers. If it’s a brand new site, look to find people that are currently excluded by the sites of other companies or organizations. These potential users will help you stretch your design, innovate and distinguish your Web presence.

Make inclusive design a frictionless process. Select authoring tools, development tools, and component libraries that support and automatically prompt and check for accessible practices. Create templates that embed accessibility and guide everyone that creates new material for your site to do it right from the start.

Regularly review your site with people who have disabilities because they are the first to feel the effects of poor design or potential design failures. They are the “canaries in the coalmine” for user experience threats.

Like the excuses for not brushing your teeth, none of the common excuses for not creating inclusively designed Web sites hold up.

  • It doesn’t cost more if done from the beginning, only if you procrastinate and leave it to the end. In fact it will save you money and bring in revenue.
  • Protesting that it is hard to maintain shows you tried to bolt accessibility features on or treat them separately, rather than integrating and letting inclusive design beneficially infuse your site.
  • Claiming that no one with a disability uses your site is such an illogical and silly excuse it doesn’t even deserve a response. If you use this excuse, perhaps you deserve to lose one of the largest groups of customers globally, a group that spans every other demographic.
  • Opining that it compromises your aesthetics shows you don’t know enough about Web technology to know that accessible sites can not only look as good as aesthetically-driven inaccessible site but also present an aesthetic that has the graceful and inspiring beauty of fitting your needs. It also shows that you only judge aesthetics skin deep and don’t consider the more powerful aesthetic of user experience.
  • Complaining there isn’t enough time overlooks some of the best ways to save time, increase efficiency and gain time in the long run. Rushing design and development leads to paying multi-fold in customer support, bug fixes and crisis recovery. This complaint shows a lack of foresight that will hurt you when you encounter the unexpected, or your world changes direction and you need to be responsive.

An inclusively designed Web presence is not only good for you, it is a habit that will keep on giving and shows true leadership. Integrating inclusive design into your corporate culture is an investment that ultimately yields the highest returns, monetarily, and in many other immeasurable ways.