Following a new wave of innovation and research, it’s worth paying attention to companies that are building accessible-first products and driving both higher customer value and higher profits.
Accessible-First Product Design and Innovation
Retailers like Microsoft’s stores offer ASL video call capability for deaf customers to explore products with a member of the deaf support staff who personalize the shopping experience with signing or other assistive services. Such personalized services are scaled and delivered on the same systems as other personalized shopping platforms to streamline costs.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, consumers with disabilities represent a $1 billion market segment. In the U.S. 20 million households have a member with a physical limitation and consumer behaviors among these populations mean more shopping trips, higher spending per trip than the average consumer, and less of their total dollar volume on deals and coupons. Such purchasing characteristics and preferences indicate consumers with disabilities make up an important consumer segment for retailers and makers who are able to meet their needs for doing business.
Accessibility as a Product Feature
Indirectly search engine optimization (SEO) and accessibility practices that include quality content and accessible visual design rank better in search engines because search engine crawlers, like users with similar impairments, can’t see, hear or they only use a keyboard. Google’s John Mueller explains, “Accessibility is something that is important for a website because, if you drive your users away with a website that they can’t use, then they’re not going to recommend it to other people.”
In the past several years, Google enabled an accessibility tool as a feature in Lighthouse to help developers improve content not only for people with such vision, hearing, or cognitive challenges as dyslexia but also for system crawlers who themselves rely on content to evaluate and determine relevance for web pages, images, audio, or video accordingly. As a product feature that follows standards from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), the built-in feature is not only valuable for a smaller disabled population but also critical for the needs of the broader technology system itself.
Calibration Software for Touch-screen Devices
Consider your last trip to the airport, a timesaving decision between waiting at the ticket counter or using the touch-screen kiosks today might just about equal out due to the required manual keyed registration to scan a ticket at a kiosk or waiting for a customer-savvy representative at the counter. Now consider the added barriers for touch-screen devices for those without single finger touch capability, such as populations with cerebral palsy that are forced to use the back of their hand or wave motions on assistive devices. Different populations but same business problem ticketing for a flight.
Accessible-first innovations like Smart Touch, a technology in development by researchers at University of Washington’s Information School, seek to advance the use of touch-screen technology across everyday products to solve business problems not only for those with a disability but for everyone using touch-screen technology.
Smart Touch technology is a calibration procedure that analyses and recognizes unique movement gestures that can be used to record unique patterns and then be able to repeat that pattern across devices without having to be reliant on re-keying single-figure interaction. Similar in context to automated speech recognition or docu-sign technology, where the device asks for repeat interactions, Smart Touch can pick up on your unique speech or writing patterns shortening manual entry of information. This assistive technology would not only reduce time spent on touch devices for disabled populations but would add the same timesaving interaction for any population that use it.
Accenture research studied 140 top companies in their Champion study that actively invested in Disability Inclusion initiatives for nearly 6% of the U.S. employee base. These companies outperformed their competitors by nearly 30% higher in profits and revenue. The workforce advantage for accessible-first innovation both at the organization level and within products is an imperative measure in product design.
A hidden market: The purchasing power of working-age adults with disabilities, American Institutes for Research, April 2018,
Reaching Prevalent, Diverse Consumers with Disabilities, Nielsen, 2016, http://sites.nielsen.com/newscenter/measuring-impact-consumers-disabilities/
Getting to equal 2018: the disability inclusion advantage, Accenture, AAPD and Disability: IN. https://www.accenture.com/t20181108t081959z__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/pdf-89/accenture-disability-inclusion-research-report.pdf