An international perspective on the business case behind accessibility – video interview with Axel Leblois

After many years, it feels like the business case for accessibility and inclusive design is becoming better understood and acted upon in businesses.

At Hassell Inclusion, and in the BS 8878 British Accessibility Standards we helped create, we tend to think about four factors in this business case:

  1. The commercial case – how inclusion can attract and retain customers
  2. The ethical case – that inclusion is just the right thing to do
  3. The legal case – that following accessibility guidelines is needed to comply with disability discrimination laws in many countries
  4. The innovation case – that considering the needs of people with disabilities helps product designers to ‘think different’ and create innovations in product design that can benefit everyone

Between BS 8878’s creation and the forthcoming publication of its International Version ISO 30071-1, I travelled the world to look at how each aspect of accessibility play out in different countries – looking for similarities and differences in approach.

This week I wanted to publish a clip from an interview I captured with Axel Leblois from G3ict when he was in London a few years ago. In this extract he speaks about why organisations believe getting involved with accessibility is good business sense, from his perspective as the lead of the UN’s global initiative for accessible ICT.

Find out more by watching the video below, or reading the transcript. If you have any trouble hearing Axel’s insights because of his accent, or any other reason, you can also turn on captions on the video.

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Transcript of video

Accessibility is the best loyalty programme you can give, more effective than any mileage card, any loyalty card, anything.

Jonathan Hassell interviews Axel Leblois on how accessibility laws are created

Today I’m with Axel Leblois, executive director of G3ict, the global initiative for inclusive ICT. So thanks for taking the
time to chat with me today, Axel.

My pleasure.

So you said that large organisations come to the events that you speak to and you mentioned the conference that you had here. You had CEOs of a lot of banks etc. When you talk to organisations like that about accessibility, what are the main reasons that they tell you are there behind their investment in accessibility?

There are three fundamental motivations for companies to really pay attention to accessibility. One is compliance, which means risk reduction for them. One is corporate social responsibility, because they realise it’s a good thing to do to be involved with accessibility. And a third one is marketing opportunity and that is a huge market for companies that serve the consumer market. So if they’re smart they can actually benefit from paying attention to that particular market place.

So those are the three factors. Now, depending on which industry you look at, the driver may be one of those three things more or less. For instance, if you take air transportation and baking, today the driver is compliance. In a way it’s unfortunate because, while it does help the overall population of persons with disabilities to have more effective services like accessible ATMs, for instance, on the other hand within the organisation, it prevents the accessibility experts to put all of their knowledge to the service of the marketing department of the company.

So what’s happening in quite a few cases I’ve seen is that a company will be operating in a market where there’s significant number of senior consumers – and half of the persons over 65 years of age have some form of disability around the world on average. And yet they don’t think about it in those terms. They think in the terms “Okay, wow we’ve got a tool that says we need to do this… we need to make sure we are doing it.” But they don’t think about how to optimise that for their consumers. So, in that sense compliance is good but not too good.

I think that over time some industries, like the mobile industry, which also has to do deal with compliance… But a country like Japan, they have kind of shown the way for the most aged population in the world. They have some service providers who have done incredible work without any pressure from a compliance standpoint. It was best in market for person with disabilities and seniors and had tremendous success in gaining new business. I think those are the tensions that you can see.

You mentioned that in Japan they have great success in attracting new customers. What about maintaining customers? Is there something about accessibility that impacts on a customer’s loyalty to a business?

Yes, you are raising a very good point, in fact what we see from different industries – the mobile industry or the hospitality industry – it is definitely a bit more complex and therefore a bit more costly to target specifically seniors or persons with different types of abilities to come to your service or product, to become new customers.

However once you have acquired that customer, and serviced them correctly, what you see in most industries is that the retention of the customer is much higher. There is much less churn. If you take some industries, for instance, such as the mobile industry, or the airline industry for that matter, customer loyalty is a fundamental attribute of successful financial results. So in other terms if every year you have got to fight against a huge proportion of your customers going away, and acquiring new customers, it’s a very costly proposition. Persons with disability and seniors, once they are used to a service, they are happy with it, things are accessible and they get customer support, they just stay with you forever.

So if you like accessibility is like a loyalty programme.

Accessibility is the best loyalty point you can dream of, more effective than any mileage card, any loyalty card, anything.

This interview is one of 16 filmed to contribute to my book ‘Including your missing 20% by embedding web and mobile accessibility’. The book provides a full guide on how to transform your organisation to achieve the consistent creation of web sites and mobile apps that are usable and accessible to all your customers, at the most efficient cost. Find out more about the book by visiting


Yuval Wagner says

Two more factors implemented in the business case at Israel when implementing accessibility
1. The improvement of the Org. image.
2. Risk management avoiding both bad PR and lawsuits

Jonathan Hassell says

Thanks for the comment, Yuval. Yes, the more you look into it, the more aspects of the business case for accessibility you’ll find. We’ve just finished recording a podcast talking about another 12, so watch out for that in the coming weeks.

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