The Value of Accessibility

Accessibility is viewed by many stakeholders as a social task. Outside of the public sector, however, things are different: In the case of commercial enterprises and nonprofits, the focus is on profitability: What does it cost and what does it bring us? These questions are perfectly legitimate, especially when large investments are necessary. In addition, accessibility will not be dropped at the first opportunity if it is also valued from an economic point of view.

Therefore, in this post, I want to show the indicators by which the value of accessibility can be seen.

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The financial value

No accessibility expert will go so far as to name specific numbers about the Return on Investment from Accessibility. Let's take the issue of accessible banking. Most disabled people already have a bank account that they can manage somehow. If they get by, they won't flock to a bank just because they just introduced accessible banking. It's possible that the next board member thinks accessibility is diabolical do-gooderism and abolishes it again because it's totally unattractive. At best, an ROI can occur here in years and maybe not at all.

The situation is different with online shops, for example. They all seem to have conspired against the disabled in order to be as unfair to the disabled as possible. I buy my non-prescription medicines online and I can say that online pharmacies are generally difficult to access for the blind. They are representative of online shops: eBay is a nightmare, Amazon works quite well, but only once you get used to its numerous quirks.

An online pharmacy that is easy to use for the disabled and other people would be a real visitor magnet as soon as word got around. Disabled, chronically ill and elderly people who are particularly dependent on accessibility also buy medicines more often than average. Since they are often among the people with a low income, they are also more dependent on the low prices of online pharmacies. This also applies to other online shops. Disabled people are less mobile on average and, above all, it is difficult for them to obtain special products without barriers, which is why they often have to switch to the Internet.

So if the shop is accessible, the conditions are within the usual framework and the offer is sufficiently well known, nothing should stand in the way of an appropriate ROI. How high that will be, no one can say in advance.

The same applies to online donation procedures. It is always frightening how poorly accessible such procedures are. For a donation I made to, I actually had to get sighted help, which I almost never do. Apparently they can get by without my money, but other large organizations that practically only live on donations are no better.


But there is more than money. An organization's reputation also plays an important role.

Amazon, for example, has earned a reputation for being easy to use for the disabled. In addition, the prices from third-party providers are mostly moderate. That is why many disabled people order from Amazon instead of, for example, directly from the provider who also offers their products on Amazon. Apple is considered by many disabled people to be the first choice when it comes to usable devices, although Google and Microsoft have done a lot of work on their products.

In large markets, there are only a few criteria that players can use to differentiate themselves. Product quality and services are relatively the same, so accessibility is another way to differentiate yourself from the competition. It is important that accessibility is communicated accordingly. If my offer is accessible and nobody notices, my chances of benefiting from it are relatively small.

Market strategy

In general, there are three market positions that a company can strive for: market leadership, quality leadership or a market niche.

Market leadership refers to having as large a share of the market as possible. The quality leadership means that you want to offer the best conditions, you are content with a smaller market share, but can bring in significantly higher margins. In niche markets, the player tries to find an attractive niche that is not interesting for the big players.

Let's take mobile devices as an example. Apple is striving for quality leadership with its iOS series. That's why there will probably never be cheap Apple devices, because this part of the market doesn't fit into Apple's strategy. Microsoft and Google are striving for market leadership, which is why Microsoft is trying to offer devices in all price ranges from cheap to premium. Since the market for smartphones is huge, there is often enough space for niche providers who offer devices with special operating systems or features.

Accessibility is particularly important for the actor striving for quality leadership. The quality leaders often perform better than the market leaders. For niche providers, on the other hand, accessibility is of no interest due to the low level of market penetration. For the market leader, accessibility should be important to improve market penetration.

The quality leader can easily price accessibility into its products without customers dropping out, since its prices are high anyway. The market leader can pass the higher prices on to a larger number of products and only has to increase prices moderately, if at all.


Roughly speaking, compliance means adhering to applicable regulations. It is of particular importance in Germany due to the restrictive competition law. It is part of corporate sport to sue the competitor for failing to comply with Section 1670(4) and that is an anti-competitive act.

However, it makes sense not only to comply with applicable regulations, but also to see which regulations may apply in the future. It is relatively likely that the European Union will eventually enact regulations that also oblige private actors to be accessible.

Since the investments in the area of accessibility can sometimes be quite high, it is worth fulfilling them at an early stage or combining them with other measures. Buildings need to be maintained one way or the other, so why not take the opportunity to freshly insulate the building and add a ramp to the stairs along the way? The toilet needs to be renovated? Why not merge two cabins and add a disabled toilet? The website has to be relaunched anyway, then it can also be made accessible.

It is true that many older people are fitter today than their peers, say 30 years ago. Nevertheless, chronic diseases occur more frequently, especially in old age. These employees usually have and want a right to rehabilitation. But if someone has back problems or poor posture, they can hardly be expected to climb to the third floor of the old building.

If we assume that the average age of employees today is 50, then in the next ten years many of these people will find themselves in a situation where they will no longer be able to work where they were previously due to health problems or that they can no longer work the way they used to work. This is one side of demographic change that has been neglected so far. People's qualifications remain, but their health does not. I assume that middle-aged people like me will still have to work into old age because the pension fund will have been privatized by then and have slipped below the basic security level. Today's working world is not prepared for these older employees, whoever makes provisions early can secure this cohort.

Another important aspect is the General Equal Opportunities Act (AGG). The law calls for general equality of opportunity for people with and without disabilities, which has not been created to date. Many applicant portals are not accessible today. Theoretically, this is a violation of the AGG, but where there is no plaintiff, there is no right .


The value of accessibility is difficult to measure. Nevertheless, there are some indicators that can also be used to justify the introduction of accessibility from an economic point of view.

It is necessary to think long-term. The number of people who are born disabled is decreasing, but it is foreseeable that the number of disabilities in old age will increase. Anyone who starts to take care of it today will perhaps benefit in the medium term, but will certainly benefit in the long term.

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