Importance of Inclusion

Jul 14 2022

The largest minority group in the world is that of disabled individuals. Roughly 15% of the global population identifies as disabled, with roughly one in four American adults doing so.1 Inclusivity of disabled individuals into the economic sector remains a significant struggle for businesses.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development defines inclusion as “a state of being valued, respected and supported. It’s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.”2 So why is inclusion so important? Aside from being legally proscribed, the practice of being inclusive is not only a moral imperative but also makes good business practice.

Being disabled often correlates to more frequent encounters with obstacles that limit said person’s ability to access and utilize the services provided by a certain space. While physical barriers such as inaccessible entrances for wheelchair users and inaccessible parking are easily recognizable to nondisabled individuals, nonphysical barriers exist in today’s world that significantly diminishes disabled individuals’ ability to engage in the same everyday activities as their nondisabled peers. Disabled individuals are often discriminated against on the internet, as society has erected institutional barriers whose negative effects have been ignored (most notably a lack of universal standards for accessibility on the internet and a lack of awareness of the issue at large). Addressing the barriers associated with being disabled while engaging on the internet is in the best interests of all people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost every individual is likely to experience being disabled at some point over their lifetime.3 In disability, the principle of universal design – “the process of creating products that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics” – serves the greater populace, generating a more inclusive environment for everyone, without discriminating against another group. In fact, universal design principles apply in the most significant means when discussing web accessibility and inclusivity, as those who the standards are designed for are not always those who are utilizing the functions the most.

Legality of Inclusion

Inclusion, often taking the practical form in accessibility, is a measure that has been universally protected in the United States for the last three decades. In 1990, the United States passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure anti-discrimination measures were taken to protect people with disabilities in many areas of life. This law protects disabled Americans from discrimination in employment, places of public accommodation, and other areas of life. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects disabled individuals in the educational environment and ensures the inclusivity of disabled students. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 requires that federal agencies' electronic and information technology (EIT) is accessible to people with disabilities. Failure to adhere to anti-discrimination laws/failure to be equally inclusive to protected classes makes your organization vulnerable to costly litigious action and negatively impacts your organization’s public image.

Inclusion as a Business Practice

Compliance with the law isn’t the only reason a business should strive to be inclusive: it’s good business practice. Disabled individuals are amongst the most loyal consumers to businesses that demonstrate an effort to support their communities. The market power of the disabled is considerable and has been known to make a difference in the bottom line for a business. According to a 2018 American Institutes for Research (air) report, “the total disposable incomes (post-tax) for working-age individuals with disabilities is nearly $500 billion.”4 $500 billion is similar in the market power to other major minority groups and should be considered by business owners when adjusting their business practices to tailor the needs of these communities. With disabled individuals being such a large target demographic, engineering business practices that enable the inclusion of these individuals into your consumers best serves your financial interests.

Inability to access online platforms, for disabled users, results in a quantifiable loss of income to your business. According to a 2019 report on “people with disabilities found only about 8% of people who face an "access issue" online would choose to bring it up with a business. Close to 70% of people in this situation will click away from the website.”5 In the United Kingdom, it was found that “75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a service provider because of poor disability awareness at a cost of £1.8bn to UK businesses every month.”6 Failure provide equality in access (be inclusive), alienates the disabled population and removes them from your consumer base. If an organization chose to be inclusive, they would be able to provide services that would more universally make them more appealing to consumers. As many features utilized to make a website more inclusive to disabled users benefit members of other demographic groups, the benefits would trickle into other target audiences. 80% of those who use the closed captioning function on videos (as suggested with web inclusivity standards) are not auditorily disabled.7 Providing close captioning to promotional videos can both entice disabled customers and the elderly you might have otherwise lost. Providing accommodations on your platforms will result in a more inclusive environment for customers of all demographics and boost your company’s bottom line. The effects also generate a secondary benefit in supporting the image of your company, enticing individuals who make consumer behavior decisions based on the social exercises of a business.

To help ensure that your organization is on the path to being more inclusive, start by considering your level of risk. AAAtraq encourages you to take 60 seconds to understand your own risk position – you can do it, free at https://AAAtraq.com/ (opens in a new window) - no registration required - and results are immediately available and understandable. Green = good - red = bad.

1 “Disability Inclusion Overview,” World Bank, April 14, 2022, https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability#1 (opens in a new window).

2 “Diversity and Inclusion Definitions,” HUD.gov (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), accessed May 26, 2022, https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/administration/admabout/diversity_inclusion/definitions (opens in a new window).

3 “Disability and Health,” World Health Organization (World Health Organization, November 24, 2021), https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/disability-and-health (opens in a new window).

4 Admin, “Accessibility Is Smart Business – the Hidden Size and Purchasing Power of People with Disabilities,” Accessly, October 27, 2021, https://accessly.io/why-accessibility-smart-business-hidden-size-purchasing-power-people-with-disabilities/#:~:text=According%20to%20a%202018%20report,they%20hold%20impressive%20buying%20power (opens in a new window).

5 Julia Travers, “How Accessibility Can Boost Customer Satisfaction and Retention,” Accessibility.com: Accessibility Starts Here, November 13, 2020, https://www.accessibility.com/blog/how-accessibility-can-boost-customer-satisfaction-and-retention (opens in a new window). And Rick Williams and Steve Brownlow, “The Click-Away Pound Report 2019” (Freeney Williams Limited, February 2020), http://www.clickawaypound.com/downloads/cap19final0502.docx (opens in a new window).

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