Is your company prioritizing accessibility in its product releases?

To what degree does your company emphasize accessibility in its product releases? That’s the question we asked the Intuit® Developer community in our Twitter poll for May, and we were excited to see that 32.2% of our 1,183 respondents put accessible web design first. Interestingly, “We don’t emphasize it” came in second with 25.9% and “Deploy fixes as needed” at 22.8%. “Just starting our journey” trailed behind at 19.1%.

It’s no secret that Intuit champions accessible web design. It’s also no secret that we believe every user benefits, as well as every company and developer that makes accessibility a priority.

Accessible web design for everyone

According to a 2018 CDC infographic, 26% of adults in the U.S. have some type of disability. The infographic breaks down the disabilities into several categories, including mobility, cognition, independent living, hearing, vision, and self-care. According to The World Bank, “One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability.” No matter how you cut it, this is a lot of people who rely on accommodations to help them get through the day.

When an application doesn’t take their disability into account, they are forced to create time-consuming, laborious workarounds. For example, one Intuit customer reached out to us via our accessibility feedback mechanism. She was unable to put her availability into a TSheets (now QuickBooks® Time) schedule, and had to email her boss every week just to do her job. She was unsurprisingly frustrated with the situation.

Intuit coordinated a Follow Me Home, a program created by co-founder Scott Cook in 1983 that allows Intuit staff to observe customers using our product in real time. We found that she was using her keyboard and JAWS, a screen reader, to navigate. Our local accessibility team corrected the feature and removed the barrier.

Intuit’s Julie Elliott, a principal user experience researcher, wrote about the experience in Solve for One – Extend to Many. “The customer’s journey was an incredible experience to see. From watching their struggle to creating a solution, their delight was extremely rewarding to our team.

“We originally set out to remove a barrier for one customer, but we found that many other users discovered they could manage their schedule with a keyboard for the first time,” she continued. “The success for one became a success for more than 6,000 unique customers!”

This story is just one of many exemplifying why accessibility matters. Though it was rewarding to fix a problem, it’s even more rewarding when a potential barrier is recognized and addressed before it becomes a problem. The idea of “measure twice, cut once” applies to more than carpentry. Just as checking measurements before cutting wood saves the carpenter from having to cut again, and spending more time and money on something after the fact, accessible web design will do the same for developers—minus the cutting wood part.

The benefits of making accessibility a priority include ensuring that every user can use the product easily and efficiently. The developer won’t have to go back and fix an issue that may cost them time, effort, and money; and the product will appeal to a wider—and very appreciative—audience.

Championing accessible web design

Intuit Sr. Software Engineer and Boise Site Accessibility Lead Josh Harrison explains in Lessons Learned from an Intuit Accessibility Champion that Intuit’s championing of accessible web design is intentional, and another facet of our mission to power prosperity around the world while fostering inclusivity.

He writes, “Accessibility is a natural fit for Intuit’s mission of financial empowerment. Our products are more than web, desktop, and mobile applications—they’re tools that enable people to lead independent financial lives. The Intuit Accessibility team is dedicated to making sure that our products reach everyone, regardless of their physical, sensory, or cognitive ability.”

After his first web app failed an accessibility audit in 2015, Josh spent his time learning about, and advocating for, accessibility. He has worked hard to impart the lessons he’s learned, which include the importance of designing for accessibility up front, thinking through UI from the perspective of those who depend on assistive tech (such as using just the keyboard or using a screen reader), getting back to HTML basics (for example, using the HTML elements for the purpose they were designed for), and focusing on web accessibility principles (POUR: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust).

As developers design their applications, the first question that comes to mind should be “Who is my audience?” We believe the answer is “everybody,” which includes 26% of the U.S. population and 15% of the global population who have some type of disability.

Intuit has created a series of informative articles we hope will encourage developers and companies to jump on board with accessible web design:

Intuit’s Global Accessibility Leader Ted Drake puts it best: “Our goal, as developers, is to build products that reach the largest possible audience. We create delightful experiences. We take pride in developing software that is maintainable, fast, secure, and private. To accomplish this, we must recognize the core importance of accessibility, because you can’t accomplish the other goals without it.”