If you’re not accessible, you lose sales and reputation

Did I ever mention that I love the community, and I love operating systems with truly inclusive design?! Well, now you know! Here’s a little story that took place in the last half hour:

I am looking for an RSS reader for my Mac. Because I’m blind, I have to use VoiceOver to access the screen contents. VoiceOver is a screen reader for the blind. If you have a Mac, press Cmd+F5 and listen to what happens! (That same keystroke turns ift off, BTW.)

If you run Linux and the GNOME desktop, you have the screen reader Orca built-in. If you run Windows, you can get a free and non-intrusive screen reader called NVDA. These can be used to test applications for accessibility. And oh yes, websites, of course, too, if you use a compatible browser for the platform.

Anyway since this was a question specifically directed at Mac OS X users, I got several replies recommending Reeder. I then asked those who had recommended it, if Reeder is compatible with VoiceOver. One of them did a quick test and found out that it isn’t. The feed table doesn’t read, for example, and possibly other stuff that doesn’t work as well.

I just saved €7.99 because I was able to ask the community for help in testing whether an app is compatible with VoiceOver. And unfortunately for the app developer, they just lost a sale because of the fact that their app is not compatible with assistive technologies.

And here’s the message for you app developers out there, web or native: Not being accessible costs you sales! Because not only will people who have to deal with the inaccessibility of applications or web apps not buy your stuff, they will also tell their friends and co-workers about it. And news travels fast around the blindness or other disability-related communities

Likewise, if you make an effort and become accessible, and tell someone about it, good news travels through the relevant communities equally fast! Because we’re not just a bunch of naggers, we are also equally cheerful if we find out, or are told, that there’s more stuff that we can use to broaden our horizons and lower barriers in the world we live in. And this, in turn, will increase sales and is good for business reputation!

There are tons of resources out there on the web, in developer documentation for your platform of choice, how to make your applications more accessible. For web developers, I wrote an article on how to test your web sites for accessibility a good while ago.

And if you’re in doubt, find beta testers, find community members to help out with testing and feedback! I can also be contacted of course, although I cannot provide testing for each platform, but I might also be able to give some general advice.

Happy accessifying!

4 comments:

  1. Hi Marco,

    Great story, thanks for sharing. If we could build solid stats on real-world stories like this one, and turn them into tangible figures (like lost sales, impact of negative feelings from a given audience, etc.), then we would have stronger arguments in favor of accessibility (web included).
    One strong message, I believe, is that it doesn’t impact people with disabilities only.
    I remember needing to rent a car while in Australia. I was in a web bar that was about to close, and I needed the car for the very next day. After struggling with finding a site, then a fine deal, and finally choosing the right car, I submitted my request. Uh-oh, no reaction. Inspecting the code, I realized the form needed javascript to be submitted. Since javascript was blocked by the proxy in the place, I was unable to close the deal. Frustration, utter inconvenience, lost time and money in this web bar… just for a stupid piece of javascript code that was totally replaceable by a simple HTML button. The lost opportunity for this business was only fair; if only they had been mindful of all their audience, I would have happily spent my Aussie dollars there…
    Keep going with your blog, I love it!
    Cheers,
    Olivier

What are your thoughts?