someone pressing accessibility key on the keyboardDigital equality — or access to the internet by making it accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities — is a serious moral and ethical issue. If left unchecked, digital inaccessibility can also be expensive and harmful to your brand. Start with the following:

1. Proactively address accessibility from the earliest possible stages of the development process

Failure to identify exclusionary design is significantly more expensive and risky after the software goes into production. It also means fixes need to be implemented after you’ve already deployed, potentially creating disruptions to your development process and loading up your backlog. 

Accessibility testing should be integrated into your early development process where we’ve seen most developers catch 30 to 50 percent of all potential accessibility lapses. Ideally, accessibility should be considered as early as the design phase of your process.

However, even the most accessible websites in the world will contain flaws, and organizations must continue to be diligent with accessibility testing after deployment, including regression testing (making sure code changes do not inadvertently introduce new accessibility issues).

2. Start small and continuously build on successes

Addressing accessibility for the first time can seem like an overwhelming process. The good news: you can start for free by utilizing some great automated testing tools or include accessibility tests into your existing testing environment with an accessibility rules libraries, which is open-sourced and continually enriched by actual developers.

Don’t focus on unrealistic perfection right out of the gate. Begin by incorporating basic best practices for the most critical issues — for example, adding captions to videos for users with hearing impairments; clear image descriptions (e.g. “click here to buy brown loafers”) when someone who is visually impaired uses a screen reader — and then strive for constant improvement.

You also can’t forget the legal costs, which can be huge

Conclusion

In our increasingly empathic society, accessibility — or the lack of it — is becoming a more visible issue. No longer a nice-to-have, it is quickly becoming a must-have. There is clear evidence among development teams that accessibility is becoming an ingrained part of their jobs.

We are fortunate to live in a society that encourages innovations that enable people with disabilities to navigate the internet independently. If your organization isn’t keeping up with this wave of innovation and inclusion, you may be at risk for incurring large costs. Besides enriching the lives of millions of persons with disabilities, practicing accessibility proactively protects your brand and bottom line.