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

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Web Accessibility Business Case: Overview
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Technical Factors
Financial Factors
Legal & Policy Factors

Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization: Social Factors

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

Note : 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 is part of a resource suite that describes the social, technical, financial, and legal and policy factors relevant to developing a customized business case for Web accessibility for a specific organization.

The importance of various social factors of Web accessibility are different for specific organizations and situations. For example, one organization's goal might be to become a leader in corporate social responsibility, a different organization might be particularly interested in attracting capital from socially responsible investing sources, and another organization might be interested in demonstrating its focus on a specific societal group.

This page provides guidance on customizing how social factors are covered in a specific organization's business case for Web accessibility.

Identifying Social Factors for a Specific Organization

The following questions can help identify how the social factors of Web accessibility apply to the organization:

Web Accessibility is a Social Issue

Web Accessibility is Essential for Equal Opportunity

The Web pervades many areas of society and daily life. In many countries Web interfaces are increasingly used for government information and services, education and training, commerce, news, workplace interaction, civic participation, and entertainment. In some cases, the Web is replacing traditional sources of information and interaction. The Web is an important medium for receiving information as well as providing information and interacting with society. Therefore, an accessible Web that allows people with disabilities to actively participate is essential for equal opportunities in many 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, including getting to the library, physically getting the resource, and reading the resource. Once that same information is available and accessible on the Web, it becomes significantly easier for many people with disabilities to access and use. Additionally, it is much easier for organizations to provide information as accessible digital media via the Web, rather than developing and distributing multiple alternative formats of printed material (such as large print, Braille, audio). 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.

Barriers to Web Use

Currently there are significant barriers on the Web for many people with disabilities. Because most 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 Web sites were made accessible, people with disabilities could effectively use the Web. (How People with Disability Use the Web includes scenarios that illustrate some requirements of people with disabilities when using the Web.)

Other barriers to Web use are limited access to computer training, limited access to high bandwidth connections, and limited access to newer technologies (hardware and software). That is, some people do not have the financial means to afford regular 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 affected by such socioeconomic factors, including:

Role of Organizations' Web Sites

When an organization's Web products (Web site, authoring tool, etc.) are not accessible, they further exclude people with disabilities from society. When an organizations's Web products are accessible, they empower people with disabilities to participate in society. Providing accessible Web products can directly increase Web product usage, as described in the Financial Factors page of this resource suite, as well as demonstrate that an organization is sensitive to the access needs of a diverse society. This can engender goodwill and encourage other organizations to also make their Web products accessible.

Web Accessibility 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, positively impacts society and the environment, and generally conducting business ethically.

Web accessibility can impact an organization's employees, stockholders and board members, suppliers and vendors, partners and collaborators, customers, and other constituents. Thus Web accessibility in an integral part of CSR in demonstrating an organization's commitment to providing equal opportunities.

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. @@ move all discussion of $ to financial! @@

Web Accessibility Benefits People with and without Disabilities

While the main focus of Web accessibility is people with disabilities - including people with temporary disabilities, accessibility also benefits people without disabilities. The "Increased Web Site Use" section of Financial Factors lists aspects of Web accessibility that increase usability, thus also benefiting people without disabilities.

Web accessibility provides improved access, and thus social inclusion, for other groups of people that are often a focus of corporate social responsibility. Below are examples of aspects of Web accessibility that benefit others.

Access for Older People

While older people often experience changes in vision, hearing, dexterity, and memory as they age, they might not consider themselves to have disabilities. Yet the accessibility provisions that make the Web accessible also benefit older people with diminishing abilities. For example, many people with age-related visual deterioration can benefit from:

People with difficulty using the mouse benefit from:

Access for People with Low Literacy and Speakers of Other Languages

Accessible Web sites can benefit people with low literacy levels and people who are not fluent in the language of the Web site. Specifically, many of the aspects of Web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities help people with low literacy or language understanding, including:

In addition, accessible sites can be read and navigated by screen readers (for people who are blind) and people who cannot read can benefit from listening to sites.

Access for People with Low Bandwidth Connections to the Internet and Older Technologies

Some aspects of Web accessibility benefit people with low bandwidth connections, which can be because of location (for example, rural), bandwidth congestion, connection technology (for example, mobile phone or personal data assistant (PDA)), or because of financial situation (that is, cannot afford high-speed connection). Older technologies can also impose slow page loading and have limited support for features used on modern sites. People with low bandwidth connections and older technologies can benefit from:

Access for New and Infrequent Web Users

Some people have little opportunity to use the Web because of the socioeconomic issues mentioned previously. New and infrequent Web users benefit from aspects of accessibility such as:

Document Information

Last updated on $Date: 2012/08/01 20:34:46 $ by $Author: shawn $.

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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