Over the past decade, the notion of a customer has changed significantly. How individuals engage with businesses, their evolving expectations, their demand for quicker responses, and recent global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have compelled organizations to re-evaluate how they serve their customers. Whether an organization offers financial services, healthcare, or operates in the retail sector, one fundamental truth prevails: the customer always remains the top priority. Providing access to pertinent information is as vital to a business’s success as its products or services; indeed, data and information reign supreme. Daily, the average person checks their email and social media accounts, handles financial transactions, places online orders, reviews account balances, and performs a range of everyday tasks online, which have become routine. Customers often lack patience for delayed information. They expect instant access in the desired format and through their preferred communication channels. Regarding accessibility, the principles remain consistent in today’s fast-paced world.
The imperative of accessibility
Ensuring that information is accessible and accommodating for assistive technologies has become a fundamental requirement for businesses today. The challenges faced by individuals with disabilities may not always be evident to others, making it crucial to recognize the significant impact these challenges can have, particularly in the context of digital content and online resources. Especially in the current global climate where Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have taken center stage, accessibility has become an essential component of doing business. Many forward-thinking organizations have incorporated the ‘A’ for Accessibility into the DEI acronym. In fact, there has been an executive order from the current president requiring accessibility to be integrated into services at all federal locations.
Accessibility in Total Experience
Accessibility is also a key element of a broader discipline known as Total Experience. When we consider digital experience and what customers should be able to do online, Total Experience elevates the standard. It encompasses both customer experience, employee experience, and operational experience. This is particularly relevant for accessibility because it extends beyond providing customers with barrier-free access to information. It also ensures that employees can carry out their work with minimal hindrance. Ensuring accessibility in internal content, HR documents and shared presentations is vital for customers and employees to navigate seamlessly.
Legal and market implications
So, what’s the significance of this to you? Well, the first and most obvious one is legal and compliance risk. Not adhering to applicable legislation comes with financial and reputational risk if your organization is sued or fined.
Across the globe, different regions have their own set of regulations governing digital accessibility. In the United States, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act, which encompasses a broad scope; section 508 focuses on the government, while section 255 addresses telecommunications. In Canada, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is specific to Ontario, complemented by the Canadian Accessibility Act. Europe has introduced the European Accessibility Act, which is currently being implemented across multiple countries. No matter where you reside, specific regulations govern the online experience, ensuring inclusivity is a priority.
The second factor is market risk, which has recently gained prominence. Accessibility is now a critical factor, serving as a barrier for those who face challenges when ordering products or services online. As the aging population grows, there’s an increasing number of individuals with visual impairments who are computer-savvy and have been self-sufficient for a long time. These individuals desire continued self-sufficiency. Therefore, organizations that fail to offer their services and products in an accessible and inclusive manner risk losing these customers to competitors.
The challenge of brand risk becomes apparent in the same market landscape but from a distinct perspective. For the consumer-centric environment, inclusivity stands as a pivotal expectation. Organizations undergo meticulous evaluation based on their initiatives to accommodate diverse demographics, particularly those with varying abilities, ensuring an immersive experience with their offerings. The perception of an organization as indifferent to such considerations carries the substantial risk of customer churn, talent attrition, and potential partnership dissolution.
User benefits and the Total Experience
Let’s underscore the paramount importance of user benefits. This isn’t just a positive aspect—it’s a cornerstone for external and internal users. Facilitating the seamless acquisition of information, products, or services is a monumental benefit. Ensuring that individuals can easily navigate life and access the essentials is a compelling rationale. Therefore, organizations should prioritize delivering this type of user experience for the sheer benefit it brings to their customers.
Learn more about how OpenText™ can help your organization make documents fully accessible and compliant.