More than 1.3 billion people live with some form of disability, representing at least 17% of the global population
Ten years ago, the US American web developer Joe Devon posted a blog post about the need to mainstream digital accessibility and proposed an annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day to campaign for digital access and inclusion – a day that is now celebrated globally every third Thursday in May.
More than 1.3 billion people live with some form of disability, representing at least 17% of the global population and forming the largest minority group worldwide. Eighty percent of disabilities are acquired later in life, so with an aging global population, disability is on the rise.
People with disabilities are critical for businesses and the economy, both as workers to ease the talent shortage and as consumers controlling more than $13 trillion in annual disposable income. In addition, the insights and designs of people with disabilities have shaped technological advancements for decades. From the first typewriter invented to help a blind woman write, to the precursor of e-mail for a deaf couple to communicate, to audio books initially created for the blind, to the remote control for people with limited mobility, people with disabilities have fueled innovation through principles of universal design.
Yet, disability is often overlooked on the inclusion agenda. Although 90% of companies claim to prioritize diversity, only 4% consider disability in those initiatives. At the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit 2020, June Sarpong, Director of Creative Diversity for the BBC, called out the “soft bigotry of low expectations” against people with disabilities as society expects so little of the disabled community and as a result infantilizes them.
People with disabilities face barriers to access the jobs market, the consumer market and the digital world. A recent analysis of the world’s top one million websites found that 97% had an accessibility issue. Beyond the moral and economic imperative for accessibility, this is increasingly a legal imperative: In the US, more than 3,500 lawsuits over web, app and video accessibility were filed in 2020.
Doubling down on disability inclusion in business could be one of the greatest opportunities for growth in this new decade of disruption. Here are three ways business leaders can strategically embed disability inclusion in their organizations to future-proof their business and expand opportunity for all abilities.
- From niche to normal - mainstreaming universal design
Businesses need to embed accessibility and the insights of people with disabilities in their products and services from design to development and launch. Pushing for more