BBC: proving Return on Investment

The brief

The BBC is the world’s leading public service broadcaster. Its mission is to enrich people’s lives with programmes that inform, educate and entertain. From its values to place audiences at the heart of all they do and celebrate diversity, the BBC aim to achieve a consistently high level of usability and accessibility across all their digital services. And they try and do this in a way that reinforces that creativity is the lifeblood of the organisation.

Our founder, Jonathan Hassell, as Head of Usability & Accessibility at the BBC from 2008 to 2011, was tasked with delivering on this corporate mission, to prove the value of accessibility to the BBC, and to sustain and grow the corporation’s commitment to inclusion over time.

Our approach

While for many organisations improving the bottom line is a key business goal, as a public service the BBC’s goals were more to prove the value it provided to the fee-paying general public. So Jonathan and his team brainstormed how accessibility could deliver value to them.

Five potential ways of delivering ROI were identified:

  • Maximising the audience for existing services: Jonathan’s team believed that by improving the accessibility of BBC websites this would maximise the sites’ audience and so improve their cost per user reached.
  • Minimising reputational and financial risk and the costs of dealing with customer complaints: As a publicly-funded service, the BBC gets a huge amount of feedback from its individual users, regulators, and organisations that represent groups of users. It is held to a high degree of scrutiny, so any slips in the consistency of accessibility could result in high public relations costs.
  • Positive reputational value via sharing best practice publicly: Having been part of the team responsible for creating the PAS-78 Standard in 2006, sharing BBC best practice in accessibility was important.
  • Positive reputational value via winning awards: Securing external recognition for the team’s work could help prove its value internally and to the general public.
  • Ensuring people know the good you’ve done and counting the benefit: Measuring the increase in the number of people with accessibility needs accessing would be quantitative proof of website performance.

Jonathan was a pleasure to work with at the BBC. I enjoyed my time with him and he always delivered. Even under the enormous budgetary & experience challenges we faced together.

The outcomes

Jonathan was able to prove the value of what his team delivered to a series of management teams, some of whom did not initially understand the value of accessibility. He did this through:

  • Maximising the audience for existing services:
    • Increasing the BBC’s ROI from audio-description by making it accessible via iPlayer to many blind users who couldn’t find AD programmes easily on TV set-top-boxes
    • Improving the corporation’s audience for their online video by introducing requirements to provide transcripts and captions, thus improving the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of pages which included video
  • Minimising reputational and financial risk and the costs of customer complaints:
    • Reducing the PR costs of dealing with accessibility complaints, by strategically diverting that spend into delivering improvements in the service
  • Positive reputational value by sharing best practice publicly:
    • Jonathan led work on the creation of the BS 8878 Standard by comparing BBC best practice in accessibility with what worked at other large organisations.


It was a great experience working alongside the talented people at the BBC to deliver such amazing results.

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Contact Us About Our Services
  • Innovation Programme

    Key: Continually Evolve

    A programme to help your digital teams think differently by engaging with disabled people's needs, inspiring them to deliver innovations in your proposals and products.

  • Accessibility Support Community

    Key: Continually Evolve

    Become part of our Accessibility Support Community to keep up to date with advances in accessibility standards and assistive technologies.

  • Accessibility ROI Benchmarking

    Key: Measure Effects

    A programme which builds on the Accessibility ROI Workshop, supporting you to introduce mechanisms to measure and analyse your key return on investment elements.

  • Accessibility ROI Workshop

    Key: Measure Effects

    A workshop that looks at the different elements of return on investment from accessibility, and how to identify and measure which are most important for your organisation. For example: value of increasing customers, positive PR, minimising customer complaints, and the value of being able to sell services into markets where accessibility is a procurement requirement.

  • Leaders in Accessibility

    Key: Embed Strategy

    A comprehensive programme for key staff who you want to become digital accessibility advocates within your organisation. Delivers training and support for implementing your accessibility strategy across its component parts: responsibility, competence and confidence, suppliers, policies and governance.

  • Accessibility Strategy Review

    Key: Embed Strategy

    We offer strategic review and analysis for organisations with multiple digital products, and for those with a single product. Both include a strategic review of the product(s), accessibility policies and processes, and provide recommendations and support for implementation.

  • Inclusive User Testing

    Key: Enable Process

    We provide two options, we can do inclusive user testing for you, or add testing with disabled people to the user testing you’re already doing. And we can also train your user testers to do this themselves.

  • We provide two options, we can do our prioritised WCAG Compliance Audit, or our unique Live Accessibility Audit. This interactive review with your team finds accessibility issues in your key customer journeys, allows you to document them in your bug-tracking system and even be fixed in the room. It’s quicker and more empowering for your product teams. And we can also train your QA staff to do full audits themselves.

  • Expert Accessibility Support

    Key: Enable Process

    To build on your training, and help you with applying it on your projects we provide embedded expert support, via: on-call email response over the course of a project, or scheduled remote or on-site surgeries for your team to drop in and talk through issues with our specialists.

  • Accessibility Maturity Benchmarking

    Key: Expand Awareness

    We provide two ways of benchmarking your current level of accessibility maturity: benchmarking your organisation’s accessibility processes, and benchmarking a key product to check their results

  • A set of courses to empower and equip key members of the product team - for product managers, business analysts, designers, developers, content authors, QA testers, auditors, user testers and more. Choose which are most important to you, to ensure you deliver accessibility every time.

  • A short workshop to help you build the case for, and put inclusion and accessibility right into the heart of your digital products, understand what it takes to embed this across your organisation, and how to use the benefits of digital accessibility to meet your organisation’s business goals. You can attend a public workshop, or we can deliver a bespoke workshop on your premises.