CONTRIBUTOR
VP of Product Design,
Whatfix

Digital transformation is now a prerequisite for businesses to remain competitive and drive innovation.

Companies are pouring billions into technology initiatives, with global spending on digital transformation projected to reach a staggering $3.9 trillion by 2027. The potential rewards are immense, as Deloitte estimates that the right combination of digital transformation actions can unlock up to $1.25 trillion in additional market capitalization.

However, amid this digital revolution, a crucial factor is often overlooked: The human side of technology adoption, particularly when it comes to employees with disabilities or health conditions. Failing to address digital accessibility can hinder transformation efforts, diminish workforce productivity, and ultimately undermine the very value companies are striving to unlock.

The human imperative to close accessibility gaps is clear and well-documented, so let’s look at the numbers that show its impact.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.3 billion people – or 16% of the global population – experience some form of disability. Numerous reports and studies suggest that between 13% to 30% of employees self-identify as having a disability or health condition that affects their ability to work.

Yet, when we look at the numbers reported by large enterprises, there is a striking discrepancy. Most companies cite disability rates of only 4% to 7% among their workforce, with even industry leaders like Microsoft reporting just 8.8% of U.S. employees identifying as having a disability. This gap, which can range from 4.2% to 21.2%, highlights a significant blind spot in how organizations understand and accommodate the diverse needs of their workforce.

Workforce productivity is widely recognized as the primary measure of value gained from digital transformation investments.

By excluding a significant segment of the workforce due to accessibility issues, companies are hampering their ability to fully realize the benefits of their digital initiatives. The resulting losses in productivity, innovation and market reach can translate into millions of dollars in missed opportunities.

The implications of this oversight are far-reaching. By failing to address digital accessibility, companies risk hampering the productivity and engagement of a substantial portion of their workforce. This, in turn, can undermine the very objectives and value propositions driving their digital transformation efforts.

Moreover, as regulatory bodies increasingly emphasize the importance of accessibility and inclusivity, enterprises that fail to prioritize digital accessibility may find themselves falling behind competitors and facing potential legal and reputational risks.

Bridging the Gap with Digital Adoption Platforms to Build an Inclusive Digital Transformation Strategy

To address this challenge, organizations must integrate digital accessibility into the core of their transformation strategies. This is where digital adoption platforms (DAPs) can play a crucial role, serving as a bridge between technology implementations and the diverse needs of the workforce.

DAPs enable companies to bring enablement directly into their digital implementations, ensuring that employees – regardless of their abilities – can effectively learn, utilize, share knowledge on and derive value from new technologies and processes. By providing in-app guidance, automation, feedback channels and analytics, DAPs can help identify and close the digital accessibility gaps that often go unnoticed, contributing to the data discrepancies we see in disability reporting.

Integrating digital accessibility into transformation efforts requires a holistic approach, and organizations can take straightforward steps to reinforce this at every stage of the process, from discovery and planning to implementation and ongoing support.

During the procurement phase, organizations should mandate accessibility and relevant regulatory compliances are thoroughly reviewed and validated in all vendor contracts and documentation.

Inclusive recruitment practices, such as actively seeking out and interviewing individuals with disabilities, can help companies gain invaluable insights into the barriers and frustrations faced by this segment of the workforce. Furthermore, conducting simulated software testing sessions with employees across various abilities can help identify and address accessibility issues before new technologies and processes go live.

Throughout the implementation and training phases, it is crucial to involve subject matter experts with disabilities to ensure that processes, materials and guidance are tailored to meet their practical needs.

As organizations progress along their digital transformation journeys, they should actively explore and incorporate assistive technologies that can enhance accessibility and support a diverse range of abilities. Automation capabilities can streamline complex and inaccessible workflows, benefiting the entire workforce.

AI-powered assistants can provide task automation, confirmations, explanations and feedback through multiple interfaces, catering to various cognitive and physical needs.

Additionally, leveraging human expertise to ensure that in-app content and guidance meet accessibility guidelines, such as those outlined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), is crucial for creating a truly inclusive digital environment.

Establishing robust feedback and complaint mechanisms, integrated seamlessly into the flow of work, can help organizations proactively identify and address emerging accessibility issues. Regular employee surveys and analytics that monitor task abandonment patterns can further aid in spotting and resolving latent problems.

The Path Forward: Accessibility as a Continuous Pursuit

Digital accessibility, much like transformation and adoption, is an evergreen effort that requires ongoing commitment and vigilance. By recognizing it as a strategic imperative and integrating it into every aspect of their digital transformation strategies, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce, drive innovation and truly maximize the value of their technology investments.

By embracing accessibility as a core component of your digital transformation strategy, you not only foster a more inclusive and equitable workplace but also position your company to capture the full potential of your investments. The economic benefits of closing the digital accessibility gap can be substantial, potentially saving millions of dollars and unlocking new opportunities for growth and innovation.

Digital transformation and accessibility are intrinsically linked – one cannot truly succeed without the other. Prioritize accessibility, and you’ll unlock a path to improved workforce productivity, enhanced customer experiences, and a competitive edge in an increasingly digital world.