When I first started teaching, we had a training day focused on making our courses accessible to students. Many of the faculty wondered, “Why are we so focused on accessibility? How many students does this really impact? Why is it so important?”  It’s not that my fellow faculty were lacking in empathy, rather, they were genuinely curious.  In fact, organizations and e-learning developers have to think about accessibility every day and often ask these same questions.

For those who are new to the concept of accessibility, let’s start with a definition. Accessibility means that people with disabilities, such as mobility, vision, or hearing impairments, can still participate in the full function of the course. In other words, the course is created in a manner that allows a person with a disability to learn the material as well as an individual without a disability.

In this post,  I’d like to highlight five reasons why accessibility is important.

Reason #1: 508 Compliance

If you’re working for a government organization, chances are you’re aware of “508 compliance.” It’s a law that requires federal agencies (or those receiving federal funds for a project) to make their e-materials, like e-learning courses and documents, accessible to people with disabilities. While more of a “stick” than a “carrot,” 508 compliance is a very large reason that accessibility may be important to you!

Reason #2: Business Sense

A full 20 percent of Americans live with one type of disability or another. So, if you’re an online retailer and your website isn’t fully accessible, 20 percent of your potential customer base can’t effectively navigate your site—and you miss out on their business.

Now, let’s take it from another angle. In the 2010 workplace, 16.6 percent of the typical working age population (aged 21 - 64) had a disability. That’s 30 million people! Think about this from a training perspective. Without accessible training, your employees will have a skill disparity within your own organization—and that’s a human capital cost. How much more capable would your workforce be if your training materials were fully accessible? Don’t intentionally ignore a portion of your workforce—they might find a more accommodating workplace with your competitors.

Reason #3: Company Morale

The “it’s the right thing to do” argument may not win over accountants watching the corporate purse strings, but there’s something to be said about caring for your fellow human beings. In fact, you may find that your employees appreciate the fact that their organization cares enough to require that training materials are accessible for all employees.

Reason #4: Larger Societal Impact

A 2012 study from the European Union found that as many as 110 million elderly and disabled Europeans are at risk of being “digitally excluded.” If certain accessibility accommodations were in place, the benefit to users would be nearly €411 billion. To be fair, it would cost companies approximately €2.39 to implement the accommodations, but the gain of €411 billion is far greater than the investment.

Reason #5: Corporate Goodwill

Organizations supporting people with disabilities often foster community and connection among their members. And in the United States, it is estimated that these members have a collective disposable income of over $250 billion. Companies that provide support to these organizations are much more likely to receive the benefit of that disposable income. So while it may be difficult to put an actual price tag on “goodwill,” one only needs to look at the potential ROI to see why accessibility makes sense!

Keep in mind, this is only a partial list of reasons accessibility matters. If you have ideas to add, we welcome your comments below. And to stay up-to-date with the latest news and tips from Articulate, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

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