The short answer to this question is right from the start! Baking accessibility into your digital product from the beginning, be it during the ideation or conceptualization stages, is super important and valuable for both your business and customers.
For starters, according to Forrester, about $10-16 billion in design spending between the US and Canada alone will shift towards tech companies that are prioritizing accessibility. This means that as a company, building accessibility considerations into your product from the start will allow you to reach this often neglected community, leading to better customer satisfaction. And don’t forget, an accessible product isn’t just beneficial to users who may have a disability; being accessible inherently leads to major usability improvements and a more positive digital experience for all users (think close captions on TikTok and Facebook videos for example).
Placing an emphasis on digital accessibility as early on as possible also allows you to avoid non-compliance, which in turn minimizes legal risk. One example of this occurred in 2006 when The National Federation of the Blind sued Target Corporation because their website was inaccessible at the time—making it difficult for blind users to purchase from the e-commerce site independently. Even so, digital accessibility lawsuits like this aren’t a rare occurrence and are actually rising in number, with there being over 3,500 cases or about 10 lawsuits filed every business day in the US alone. Worth noting that it’s very easy to bring someone to suit in the United States. However, it wouldn’t be so easy if 97% of websites on the internet weren’t so painfully inaccessible. And we haven’t even touched on web apps, mobile products, and other platforms…
When it comes down to it, baking accessibility into your product early on allows for your team to reduce both the time and money spent during the development, maintenance, and support stages. For instance, early-stage testing, which includes disabled individuals, identifies exclusionary design and helps your team go into the production phase without having to create a backlog of tasks that require you to implement fixes. It doesn’t need as much maintenance and rectification if it’s done properly from the beginning. It also allows for your company to reduce the number of support requests since your early-stage accessibility considerations will result in usability increases, making it easier and more efficient for all.