[Irl-dean] Re: Request for Research Input

Paul Walsh, Segala paul at segala.com
Thu Aug 31 21:15:27 IST 2006

Hi Tristan,

Why reinvent the wheel - you can find a great business case at

I've taken the liberty to provide some information below. I've also included
the market value of Web accessibility in the UK - I'm unable to find these
figures for any other country - if anyone can point me to qualified
resources I'd be very grateful.

The market for making Web sites Accessible

Web Accessibility is a Social Issue

Web Accessibility is Essential for Equal Opportunity
Use of the Web is spreading rapidly into all areas of society and daily
life. In many countries the Web is increasingly used for government
information and services, education and training, commerce, news, workplace
interaction, civic participation, health care, recreation, entertainment,
and more. In some cases, the Web is replacing traditional offline resources.

It has become an important medium for society to interact. Therefore it is
essential that the Web be accessible in order to provide equal access and
equal opportunity to people with disabilities. It can help people with
disabilities participate and take a more active role in society and provides
an unprecedented opportunity for access to information for people with
disabilities as the accessibility barriers of traditional print and
broadcast media can be more easily overcome through Web technologies.

An accessible Web expands opportunities for communication, interaction, and
employment for people with all types of disability.
Determining Applicable Policies
Web accessibility requirements can take the form of policies, laws,
regulations, standards, guidelines, directives, communications, orders, or
other types of documents. Policies relating to Web accessibility lists
governmental legislation and related information for many countries and

Some governments have laws that specifically require certain types of Web
site to be accessible. Others may cover Web accessibility under broader
anti-discrimination legislation, information and communications technology
policy, or other disability laws or policies.

Companies may also be required by non-governmental policies to make their
Web sites accessible, such as policies from trade or industry bodies,
professional associations, or standards organizations.

Considerations for Different Types of Organizations
Government - Some accessibility requirements apply only to national
government ministries' or agencies' Web sites; some also apply to provincial
or state governments. Other levels of government, such as provincial or
state, establish requirements independent of national requirements.

Education - Many educational institutions and organizations are covered by
governmental requirements for accessibility of Web-based educational
resources and online learning environments. In some countries or regions,
educational institutions are covered in broad policies along with other
types of organizations; and in others there are policies specifically
addressing educational institutions. In addition to governmental
requirements, some educational institutions and organizations have
established separate or more extensive requirements for accessibility. In
some cases there is a specific policy on Web accessibility; in other cases
Web accessibility is covered under broader accessibility policies.

Industry and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) - Some government policies
require industry and NGO Web sites to be accessible. These types of
organizations might also choose to follow other Web accessibility policies,
such as recommendations from trade (industry) bodies or professional
associations. Many corporations and NGOs establish their own policies for
Web accessibility, which are often more extensive than those required by
government policies. In some cases, policies established by corporations or
NGOs might also apply to subsidiaries, vendors, agencies and others who do
business with the organization.
Countries where accessibility is a legal requirement

The Web's emergence as a pivotal form of Information and Communications
Technology (ICT) raises issues regarding the application of existing and the
development of new laws and policies, and the importance of all members of
society, including people with disabilities, being able to access the Web.

There is a growing body of national laws and policies which address
accessibility of ICT, including the Internet and the Web. There is also
great variety of approaches among these laws and policies: in general some
take the approach of establishing a human or civil right to ICT; others that
government ICT must be accessible; and others that any ICT sold in a given
market must be accessible.

Understanding Risks for Non-Compliance
Non-compliance with accessibility requirements can result in significant
legal costs and have negative impact on the organization's reputation. Some
organizations have faced legal action for not making their Web sites

There are instances where the legal requirements for an organization might
not be clear. In such cases organizations must determine for themselves that
it is in their best interest (financially and otherwise) to make their sites
accessible, rather than risk legal action.

Financial Benefits
There are significant financial benefits to organizations that provide
accessible Web sites including increased Web site use and direct cost

Increased Web Site Use
A major benefit of Web accessibility is the potential for direct and
indirect financial gains from increased Web site use. Web accessibility can
make it easier for people to find a Web site, access it, and use it
successfully, resulting in increased audience (more users) and increased
effectiveness (more use).

Many organizations benefit financially when more people successfully use
their Web site; commercial companies generate more sales, educational
institutions acquire more students, and non-profit organizations secure more
funding by demonstrating successful outreach and dissemination.
Increasingly, Web sites are used to cut costs by decreasing high-cost
customer support services and enabling customers to complete transactions
online rather than requiring personnel and paper interactions. The many
examples of cost savings from online transactions include citizens renewing
licenses online, investors trading stock online, and students registering
for classes online. Thus, increased site use can result in financial gains
and cost savings.

Increase in audience (Web site users) can result from the following benefits
of Web accessibility:

Increases potential use by more people, expands potential market share
Accessible sites can be used by more people -- including people with
disabilities, people with low literacy, people who are not fluent in the
language of the site, people with low bandwidth connections to the Internet,
people with older access technologies, and new and infrequent Web users --
thus increasing the frequency and reach of users who can successfully use
the site. In some countries older people are the fastest growing group of
new Web users and accessibility is an important issue for them

Increases "findability"
Accessibility techniques increase the "findability" of Web pages by
efficiently exposing content to search engines, both internally (within a
Web site) and externally (across the World Wide Web). 

For example, these key aspects of accessibility design inherently enable
Some search engines use metadata to index pages
Alternative text for images and multimedia is available to search engines
Most search engines access text and not images 
Some search engines give higher weight to text that is marked up as headings

Increase in effectiveness (Web site use) can result from the following
benefits of Web accessibility:

Increases potential use in more situations
Accessible sites can be used in more situations. Web sites that can be used
by people with disabilities can also be used more easily by people without
disabilities who are limited by their situation, such as:
in a noisy environment 
using a low-grade display e.g. small or black & white

Increases usability
Accessible sites are generally more usable to everyone, including people
with disabilities and people without disabilities. Increased usability means
Web site users achieve their goals more effectively, efficiently, and
satisfactorily. When users have a positive experience with a Web site, they
are more likely to use the site more thoroughly, return to the site more
often, and to tell others about the site ("viral marketing"). Some
accessibility guidelines directly increase usability to all users, such as:

clear and consistent design, navigation, and links 
blocks of information divided into groups
clear and simple language as appropriate
supplemental illustrations 
good colour contrast

Increases positive image
An organization's efforts in Web accessibility are a public relations
opportunity to increase its positive image. This may also increase Web site
use. The Social Factors page discusses Web accessibility as a social issue
and an aspect of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR has been shown
to improve financial performance, enhance brand image and reputation,
increase sales and customer loyalty, increase ability to attract and retain
employees, and provide access to capital and funding.

Direct Cost Savings
In addition to the benefits from increased Web site use discussed above,
many organizations realize direct cost savings from efforts to improve Web

Accessibility reduces long-term site maintenance, decreasing development and
maintenance personnel and resource costs
Accessibility reduces server loading, decreasing the amount of server
capacity required and saving on additional server and network capacity costs

Accessibility enables content to work on multiple devices, decreasing the
need to create multiple costly versions of a site for different devices 
Accessibility can take advantage of advanced Web technologies and enable a
site to be prepared for future Web technologies, decreasing the future cost
of upgrading 

Potential direct costs savings also result from the following benefits of
Web accessibility:

Decreases potential for high legal expenses
Ensuring that Web sites are accessible reduces the risk of high legal costs
associated with defending potential legal action for non-compliance with Web
accessibility requirements. Legal and Policy Factors discusses policy
considerations for different organizations.

Decreases cost of alternative format materials
For organizations that provide printed materials in alternate formats (large
print, embossed braille, computer disk), an accessible Web site can reduce
the demand for these materials as people chose to use the Web, reducing
production and distribution costs.

Decreases cost of translating
The cost of translating a Web site to other languages can be decreased by
following accessibility guidelines for:
clear and simple language as appropriate 
clear and consistent design, navigation, and links 
separating content from presentation
text and markup rather than bitmap images of text to convey information
(WCAG 1.0 Checkpoint 3.1)

The market value for Web accessibility

The information contained in this section is based on the UK market only.
Further research is required to ascertain the market value in other
countries and territories. This information cannot currently be found on the
Internet. It is known, however, that Web accessibility is a legal
requirement in countries such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the

More businesses recognise that accessibility is a huge commercial ROI
opportunity and not just a regulatory requirement. The market in the UK
alone is worth £145million per year. 

There are 8.6 million registered disabled people in the UK. This amounts to
14% of the population. (Disability Rights Commission)
The disabled community has an annual spending power of £5billion (Scope)
There are 1.6 million registered blind users. (Employers' Forum on
Two million UK residents have a sight problem. (RNIB)
One in 12 men and one in 200 women have some form of colour blindness - 9%
of the UK population (IEE)  
3.4 million people have disabilities preventing them from using the standard
keyboard, screen and mouse set-up with ease. (Employers' Forum on
There are 12 million people aged 60 or over. (UK government)
UK population is also becoming older. Businesses will increasingly need to
tap into an older - and often affluent - demographic
Online businesses are potentially losing out on £50-£60bn per year buying
power.  (Employers' Forum on Disability) 
Businesses can affect significant upturn in online sales by making Web sites
more accessible
Accessible Web sites are better Web sites for all users, irrespective of
Better accessibility means better conversion rates

Hope that helps

-----Original Message-----
From: irl-dean-admin at list.eeng.dcu.ie
[mailto:irl-dean-admin at list.eeng.dcu.ie] On Behalf Of corrywt at cs.tcd.ie
Sent: 31 August 2006 12:12
To: irl-dean at list.eeng.dcu.ie
Subject: [Irl-dean] Re: Request for Research Input

Dear all,

Just a quick reminder about my research questionnaire on Web
accessibility.  If anyone would still like to take the opportunity to
contribute (5-10 minutes) to my research, the questionnaire is still
available for a short time (until the end of next week) at

Many thanks to those who have already taken the time to fill it in!

Thanks and regards,


Irl-dean mailing list
Irl-dean at list.eeng.dcu.ie
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