The moral commitment to make websites usable by everyone, regardless of ability or disability, is often overshadowed by questions of the tangible profitability of website accessibility. A leading UK-based accessibility expert is tackling this issue head on.
Professor Jonathan Hassell, who is best known for his pivotal role in transforming the way the BBC deals with accessibility, and his business partner, strategist and economist, Christine Hemphill, have recently opened their own accessibility agency, Open Inclusion. Their aim: to put the issue of "return on investment in inclusion" on the agenda in boardrooms.
Jonathan worked as the head of usability and accessibility at BBC Future Media, where he combined the disciplines of usability and accessibility to support user centred design across web, mobile and IPTV. He has won awards for product managing the accessibility features of BBC iPlayer, the personalisation tool MyDisplay and the accessibility information site My Web, My Way.
Combining Jonathan’s extensive accessibility expertise and Christine’s business acumen, Open Inclusion helps organisations to use inclusive design as a transformational tool to achieve their strategic business goals.
"We support organisations in getting competent and confident in embedding our approach to inclusive design in their existing culture, processes and people," Hassell says.
The next level of inclusion
Open Inclusion specialise in what they have termed ROI² - return on investment in inclusion - and they pride themselves on providing a personal and real understanding of their clients’ needs, goals, culture, products and consumers.
"Solving the technical issues of accessibility is actually the easy bit," Hassell says, "especially for our team who have been doing this for a long time. The interesting and more challenging part is the prioritisation of design and development options to align strategic business objectives with real customer experiences. This is the stuff we thrive on."
Accessibility as an enabler of business goals
For inclusive design to become sustainable, as well as embedded, companies need to know what they are getting back for their effort, and how to improve or maximise that return.
This exact issue will be the focus when Jonathan and Christine present at a digital accessibility seminar in London on June 18, hosted by web management specialists (and DigitalFWD partners) Siteimprove.
Strong supporters of Siteimprove’s automated accessibility checking tool, Hassell and Hemphill will give participants of the seminar an opportunity to consider how inclusion can help them to achieve their strategic and tactical goals.
The seminar will outline the connections between the various "levers" of inclusion and how they impact the returns companies care about: market penetration, per customer value, staff or customer engagement and loyalty, corporate social responsibility, bottom line and long term value to stakeholders. During a breakout workshop session, participants will work together with Hassell and Hemphill on how to embrace inclusive design in their business.
"Rather than lecturing people with either a metaphorical stick or carrot in hand as to why they should or must do accessibility, we’ll work interactively with smaller groups to connect their goals and top priorities this year to how accessibility and inclusive design can help them achieve these goals."
The worth of inclusive design
This will be the first time Open Inclusion has offered this kind of workshop within the UK, and Jonathan strongly encourages companies to sign up for this event and take advantage of the opportunity to gain new perspectives on the worth of inclusive design and development, plus come away with something tangible, practical and valuable.
"This is what we are passionate about: making accessibility about winning, not just about avoiding losing."
For those unable to make the seminar, but who would like to learn more, Jonathan Hassell’s book Including your missing 20% by embedding web and mobile accessibility is a great place to start.
Register to attend Professor Hassell's interactive workshop in London on 18 June