This is an old draft. The published version of this document is at

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Presenting the Case: Overview
you are here: Social Factors
Technical Factors
Financial Factors
Legal & Policy Factors

Presenting the Case for Web Accessibility: Social Factors

This is an old draft. The published version of this document is at

on this page: introduction - a social issue - corporate social responsibility - [@@ benefits other groups @@]

Status: This document is an initial draft [see change log in progress] and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances. This document is under development by the Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), and will be offered to other W3C groups and the public for review.


This page describes social factors relating to Web accessibility. It is part of a resource suite that also describes the technical, financial, and legal and policy factors for consideration in presenting a case for Web accessibility.

The importance of social factors apply differently to specific organizations and situations; for example, one organization might be particularly interested in attracting capital from socially responsible investing (SRI) sources, while another organization might be interested in demonstrating its focus on a specific societal group. In presenting a case for Web accessibility for a specific organization, the following social factors can be customized based on how they apply to the organization's situation.

Web Accessibility is a Social Issue

Web Accessibility is a Requirement for Equal Opportunity [@@ is this clear, or too US jargony ?]

The Web pervades many areas of society and daily life. In many countries Web interfaces are increasingly used for government information and services, education, commerce, news, workplace interaction, civic participation, and entertainment. In some cases, the Web has become the primary or even the only media, totally replacing traditional sources of information and interaction. Therefore, an accessible Web is a requirement for equal opportunities in may areas.

The Web is an opportunity for unprecedented access to information for people with disabilities.For example, when the primary way to get certain information was go to a library and read it on paper, there were significant barriers for many people with disabilities. Once that same information is available and accessible on the Web, it becomes exponentially users for many people with disabilities to use. Additionally, providing Web information that is accessible to people with all different types of disabilities is much easier and less expensive then developing and distributing multiple alternative formats (such as large print, Braille, audio). [@@ need to back up that statement??] Therefore, people with disabilities, as well as organizations, can have more effective and efficient communications and interactions through accessible Web sites - in some cases where there was essentially no access before.

People with disabilities can actively participate and provide content for the Web. In addition to providing opportunities for people with disabilities to get information from the Web and to interact through the Web, there are opportunities for people to provide information through the Web. When Web development software ("authoring tool") is accessible, people with disabilities can more easily develop Web sites.

Barriers to Web Use

Currently there are barriers on the Web for many people with disabilities. While international guidelines define Web accessibility for Web content (that is, what is on a Web page), Web "user agents" (including Web browsers, multimedia players, and software that people with disabilities use to access the Web), and authoring tools (software used to develop Web pages) [x - links to guidelines info], the guidelines are not well implemented. Because many Web developers do not make their Web software and Web pages accessible, many people with disabilities have unnecessary difficulties using the Web, and in some cases, cannot effectively use the Web at all.

However, if accessibility was implemented throughout the Web development process, people with disabilities could effectively use the Web. How People with Disability Use the Web illustrates some of the requirements of people with disabilities when using Web sites and Web-based applications, and includes scenarios of people with disabilities using accessibility features of Web sites and Web-based applications with some types of assistive technologies and adaptive strategies used by some people with disabilities when accessing the Web.

Other barriers to Web use are limited access to computer training, high bandwidth connections, and newer technologies (hardware and software). That is, some people do not have the financial means to afford [decent], regular [reliable] access to the Web, or the social environment that encourages Web use. These socioeconomic factors that limit use of information and communications technologies, such as the Web, are often referred to as the "digital divide."

Many people with disabilities are impacted by several aspects of the digital divide related to Web use, including lack of accessible mainstream Web technologies (such as browsers and authoring tools), and lack of effective, up-to-date assistive technologies needed by people with disabilities. In many countries people with disabilities have very low rates of employment, and consequently many have low income. Furthermore, some societies have low expectations and opportunities for people with disabilities to get training and become proficient with Web technologies.


Millions of people have disabilities that impact their Web use. [@@ about statistics @@ ]

[In addition, since the benefits of accessible design also extend to other groups affected by the digital divide and other limiting situations, Web accessibility also supports improved access and social inclusion for many other groups, including:]

The last section of this page, "[@@Web Accessibility Benefits Other Groups]" provides examples of how Web accessibility benefits these other groups.

Web Accessibilty is an Aspect of Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR), also called corporate citizenship and other terms, is about operating an organization in such a way that treats internal and external stakeholders ethically, increases human development, and positively impacts society and the environment. Web accessibility can impact an organization's employees, stockholders and board members, suppliers and vendors, partners and collaborators, customers, and other constituents.

The following points can help incorporating social factors in a customized case for Web accessibility:

[ @@ ? need more explicit link that web accessibility is social responsibility ? something seems missing here...]

One motivation for organizations' social responsibility efforts is financial. An organization's efforts in Web accessibility is a public relations opportunity to increase their positive image, which could increase site use, and offer direct and indirect financial gains, as discussed in the Financial Factors page of this resource suite.

[@@Web Accessibility Benefits Other Groups]

[@@ Intro about main focus is people with disabilities
also benefits people in general, e.g., Financial Factors list specific examples of how accessibility can increase usability for all users, including those w/o disabilities
and here is overlap with some other groups...]

Access for Older People

[@@ short bit IF important stuff from previous versions, then short bullet list of examples. @@]

Access for People with Low Levels of Literacy

[@@ short bit IF important stuff from previous versions, then short bullet list of examples. @@]

Access for Speakers of Other Languages

[@@ short bit IF important stuff from previous versions, then short bullet list of examples. @@]

Access for People with Low Bandwidth Connections to the Internet

[@@ short bit IF important stuff from previous versions, then short bullet list of examples.
@@ can be financial as well as physical, e.g., rural @@]

Access for People with Older Technologies

[@@ short bit IF important stuff from previous versions, then short bullet list of examples. @@]

Additional WAI Resources

"Building the Case for Web Accessibility"  includes:
Overview - Policy Factors - Financial Factors -Technical Factors

Other related WAI Resources include:

NOTES and possible references:

@@ I think we need to have a separate page(s) that lists references and examples, such as below.

Overview of Corporate Social Responsibility

"a growing body of evidence that CSR has a positive impact on business economic performance" ... "There is a growing body of data -- quantitative and qualitative -- that demonstrates the bottom-line benefits of socially responsible corporate performance.... Improved Financial Performance:... Reduced Operating Costs... Enhanced Brand Image and Reputation... Increased Sales and Customer Loyalty... Increased Productivity and Quality... Increased Ability to Attract and Retain Employees... Access to Capital... "

[long list of nonprofit, public sector and/or academic resources working with the private sector in the area of corporate social responsibility from around the world]

"A 2001 Environics International CSR Monitor survey showed that the factors most influencing public impressions of companies were social responsibility (49%); brand quality/reputation (40%); and business fundamentals (32%)." [[ original study for purchase through (could ask for limited stat for this if important) Millennium Poll says 56%:$FILE/Millennium_Exec.A4.pdf]]

"business case for CSR: Better financial performance in companies with CSR programs. Reduced operating costs. Access to capital. Increased productivity and quality. Reduced regulatory oversight." "79% of consumers take corporate citizenship into account when making purchasing decisions (quoting enrironics 2001) " "A 1999 poll of 25,000 citizens across 23 countries on 6 continents showed the perceptions of companies around the world are more strongly linked with corporate citizenship (56%) than either brand quality (40%) or the perception of the business management (34%). 81% of consumers agree that when price and quality are equal, they are more likely to buy products associated with a good cause. " ...employees...-


The European Commission, in their Green Paper "Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility " (July 2001), define it as a "concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their stakeholders on a voluntary basis."

Last updated on $Date: 2012/08/01 20:34:46 $ by $Author: shawn $. Primary editor: Shawn Lawton Henry. Previous Editor: Judy Brewer. This resource is under development by the active participants of the Education and Outreach Working Group.

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