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Why digital accessibility and a more inclusive web matter to APAC brands

The online world is here to stay and our time online will continue to grow. From shopping for necessities to staying connected with loved ones, how we shop, communicate, learn and make decisions has been irreversibly changed by the internet. Bain & Co found that since the pandemic began, Southeast Asia has added 60 million new digital consumers, of which 20 million joined in the first half of 2021. 

With the increase in digital consumption, we are seeing an increase in digital accessibility issues. In the Asia Pacific, over 650 million people live with a disability and this number is likely to increase as a result of the region’s ageing population. This means that one in six people in the region has some type of impairment that affects their ability to consume digital content. 

Addressing the gap 

It is expected that an increasing number of people with disabilities will require more accessible environments and services to remain mobile and engaged in society. 

However, digital inclusion remains under-addressed. Much of the internet remains inaccessible, despite existing policies to make websites more accessible. A report by Contentsquare shares some troubling numbers – 70% of digital content is not accessible, two-thirds of e-commerce sites are not accessible, and 70% of public services are not accessible.

Without ensuring digital accessibility for all, we are limiting a large group of people from accessing even the most basic services and information on the internet. There is a need to enhance the spotlight on digital accessibility, and brands catering to the audience of this highly diverse region must take action now to offer inclusive online experiences to secure a digital future for all. 

Digital accessibility is good for business

The argument for digital accessibility extends way beyond the moral obligation of building websites for all; it has huge financial and commercial implications too. Accessibility is not only good for ensuring equal access to everyone on an ethical level, but it’s also good for business. 

As the numbers tell us, the potential audience is huge and having the website inaccessible to this group is a missed opportunity. 

Ben Pintos-Oliver, general manager of digital systems at Telstra, spoke about this at a recent industry event for CX by Contentsquare. 

Ben shared that within Telstra, Australia’s largest mobile network, 50% of their base is over 55 years old.

“We know there’s a large portion of that population (around 50%) that [may have] a disability. We also know that we have an ageing population in Australia and that a 20% increase in over 65s will happen by 2030,” Ben said. 

Accessibility is not just important for disabled people – it benefits a wider audience, from people using smartphones to Asia’s ageing population to those situated in areas with low Internet connectivity. Human-centred and accessible design naturally comes with fewer points of friction and frustration.

A brand that demonstrates a commitment to accessibility for all can enjoy a strengthened brand presence and an increase in positive sentiment and word-of-mouth recommendations. And with those come significant improvements in customer experience and loyalty.

Make digital inclusion a key organisation-wide priority

Adoption of accessibility across the organisation is critical to its success, starting from leadership support. Accessibility as a mandate can’t be limited to developers and UX teams.

According to Telstra’s Ben, accessibility uptake is a joint effort and needs to cut across different functions across the organisation to be truly successful.

“From HR to corporate relations, to your digital team; more voices create more noise so make sure you get people from across the company on board as soon as you can. Seeking out people company-wide who support your initiative will help ensure a smoother buy-in from C-level too,” shared Ben.

The accessibility agenda needs to be woven into as many elements of the business as possible. For Ben, it is important for the team to align accessibility with ethical, brand and product agendas that are already on people’s roadmaps. 

“There needs to be a collective and conscious effort to support promoting accessibility for everyone, from your company values to your commitment to doing business responsibly,” said Ben.

Building a more inclusive web together: digital a11y by design

Building a more inclusive web to make a real difference in the lives of billions is a mammoth undertaking, and the more brands who commit to accessibility, the better. 

Brands need to ensure accessibility is embedded into their digital experience from the start, and not bolted on as an afterthought. Building a great website first and then reversing to make it accessible afterwards is a sure-fire recipe for a poor experience for your users. 

Brands like Telstra who prioritise accessibility from the very start will begin to cultivate an organisation-wide accessible-first mindset and contribute towards a better, kinder, and more inclusive digital environment.

This article is written by Albert Nel, senior vice president for Asia Pacific & Japan at Contentsquare.