The growing concern over digital accessibility in business is related to an overall focus on efficient collaboration and communication, both internally and externally. Businesses want their products to be absorbed accurately by users and buyers, even if they’re using a screen reader or other accessibility apparatus.
In this piece we’ll explore the ways accessibility is affecting other technologies, and new trends in the collaboration and productivity software market.
Digital accessibility and e-commerce
In 2020, businesses with an e-commerce presence will spend 30% more on accessibility-related initiatives. This includes software like website accessibility monitoring tools and accessibility plugins for users as well as services from accessibility experts and consultants.
Over the last few years, digital accessibility has gotten more attention due to the drastic increase in lawsuits against e-commerce retailers. Domino’s, Fenty, and Chick-fil-A are included in the list of more than 13,000 lawsuits filed in 2018 due to ADA noncompliance. Big brands aren’t the only businesses caught in the crosshairs either; small businesses are starting to feel like sitting ducks. Updating a website to be digitally accessible isn’t always affordable, so plenty of businesses feel stuck.
Besides avoiding legal repercussions, e-commerce can gain more when they invest in becoming digitally accessible. In a survey of customers with accessibility needs, 82% said they would spend more money if a website was accessible, and 71% said they would click away if they found a website difficult to use.
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Some of the biggest names in e-commerce already beat their competitors to the punch. Amazon provides a screen reader-friendly version of their website for people with vision impairments. eBay has made significant strides to ensure its main platform is accessible and contributes to open source accessibility testing tools. Many retailers include accessibility statements on their website to show baseline awareness of the issue, but unless they actually invest in accessibility, they won’t be protected them from legal action.
Example of an accessibility statement from Wish.com
Digital accessibility and recruiting
This gap in capability is a huge opportunity for HR software vendors to provide functionality to tap into this pool of talent. To meet this need, HR software vendors will increase prioritization of accessibility-related features, capabilities, and tools.
Some tech companies are rocking the boat by making public, dedicated efforts to hire differently-abled people. For example, Microsoft has multiple inclusive hiring programs; they’ve even created different programs for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities and for people on the autism spectrum. These efforts are significant considering differently-abled people are more likely to be unemployed or work part-time, resulting in a massive income disparity.
Despite these efforts, there is plenty of evidence that the deck is stacked against differently-abled people seeking employment. According to a study conducted by Phenom People, 89 of the Fortune 100 had career sites that failed to meet digital accessibility standards. Go-to job boards aren’t digitally accessible most of the time. There are job boards intended for differently-abled people, but they don’t get the same level of engagement from potential employers; the vast majority of open jobs are listed on inaccessible websites.
Things aren’t much better on the recruiting side either. While diversity recruiting software provides functionality to target gender or racial minorities, they rarely provide filters for neurodiverse individuals or people with disabilities. In general, HR software is not equipped with features that specifically serve differently-abled individuals throughout the recruiting process, and prevent employers from fostering a neurodiverse workplace.
Digital accessibility and UX software
In 2020, more UX software providers will release more accessibility-focused features in their products. UX software providers could find themselves losing users because they don’t provide accessibility-focused in-app features.
While historically separate, user experience (UX) has been more inclusive of accessibility needs recently. UX professionals are in the unique position to embed applications and websites with accessibility features and principles from the start. Upgrading a website or app for accessibility can be expensive; businesses can avoid this added cost by prioritizing accessibility before their website is even live.
As a result, tools typically utilized by UX designers—wireframing software, prototyping software, and web design software—need to provide more features that specifically support accessible design practices.
A few UX-focused tools and features already exist. Both Adobe Photoshop and UXPin provide filters that enable users to see what images look like for individuals with specific types of color blindness. Stark is a plugin that provides color blindness-friendly recommendations inside popular UX software solutions.
These products are evidence of progress, but are far from the status quo. Most popular UX design software solutions don’t provide these features, leaving UX designers to explore external resources or forego accessibility considerations altogether. To make things more challenging, many features only focus on accessibility considerations for color recognition-based visual impairments.
Digital accessibility and AR/VR software
In 2020, AR/VR developers will develop more tools and capabilities with consideration for accessibility needs. This includes AR/VR technology intended to support people with accessibility needs and considerations for accessibility when building unrelated hardware and software.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology has significantly evolved in the last decade. AR features in apps like Snapchat or Pokemon GO are eye catching, but are not out of the ordinary. As AR, VR, and mixed reality technology become a larger part of our lives, the industry must consider digital accessibility.
The gaming industry has hosted the most public developments in AR/VR technology. The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR were early entrants into the VR console space, and gaming platform Steam was quick to add VR compatibility once the hardware was available. Given the growing presence of AR/VR in gaming, developers must keep in mind that 20% of gamers have a disability.
Best of breed versus suite options for collaboration solutions
Collaboration suites will only succeed if they provide an interface that offers deep integrations with best of breed solutions.
Suites have struggled to keep up with best of breed solutions. The SaaS model has made it cheaper and easier to implement the best stand-alone option to solve a given business need. Suites were a pain to implement and maintain; half-baked features with an enormous price tag left a bad taste in the collective B2B market.
The idea of having all the functionality you need in one space is attractive though. A significant amount of productivity is lost moving between applications, and it is strictly easier to pay for one solution rather than two.
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There has been some traction toward unified workspaces that can provide features like communication channels, file storage, and basic knowledge management. Microsoft Teams made waves this last year, and some surveys found it outpacing Slack. Teams is integrated with other Microsoft mainstays for business like SharePoint, making it a more convenient option for some businesses.
Despite this, the tools built into suite solutions still struggle against best of breed options when looking at market performance. As popular as Teams appears to be, its apparent success could be due to it being bundled with enterprise editions of Office 365, not because businesses are interested in it specifically.
There might still be hope for unified collaborative workspaces. Both Dropbox and Citrix are working on intelligent workspaces that offer deep integrations with best of breed tools. These workspaces allow users to access their disparate collaboration, communication, and cloud storage tools from a single interface. Intelligent workspaces could offer the best of both worlds, the quality of best of breed solutions within a suite-like interface.