7 Compelling Reasons to Make Insurance Websites Accessible
Why is digital accessibility so critical for insurance brands? The compliance experts at Allyable explore 7 indisputable reasons—from legal to financial to moral—to prioritize making websites and apps fully accessible for consumers who live with disabilities.
Since the late 1990s, the accessibility of websites and other digital assets for people with disabilities has been an important consideration. However, conformance to the international standards first introduced in 1999 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)—which has since evolved to its current Version 2.1—has been slow for industries across the board.
Considering the nature and reach of the insurance sector, digital accessibility should already be a top priority in this industry. Yet many companies continue to avoid or delay their compliance efforts. In a previous article, Allyable presented its extensive review of 150 insurance websites that indicated only 4% of the tested pages conformed fully or partially to global accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0 and 2.1), while 2% did not even meet minimum standards.
If your organization is among those falling short in this area, perhaps these seven reasons will help you present a case to your team about why they need to start prioritizing digital accessibility immediately:
1. Accessibility equals trust and security.
All insurance customers need unfettered access to critical information about the various coverage options available, from healthcare and life to automotive and property insurance, in order to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. This is especially important for people who live with some form of disability—whether physical, cognitive, or sensory.
In the United States alone, there are 61 million adults with disabilities representing 26% of the population (one in every four adults), along with 54 million elderly (16.5%), although these categories have some overlap. By focusing on this sizable target market when developing or redesigning their websites and apps, insurance brands can keep accessibility at the forefront of all online materials. This will ensure that no one is denied the protection of essential insurance coverage when they need it most.
What’s more, consumers tend to do business with those companies they perceive are looking out for their best interests. Because selecting a policy can be an emotional decision, this trust factor is particularly influential in the insurance field, which often involves hard-to-understand concepts. As a recent Digital Insurance article explains:
“Decisions about policies are often highly emotional—with customers looking to protect their life, health, family and valuables. Yet they are also complex, with policy language and coverage often difficult for the general public to decipher… The best insurance websites are generally those that are easy to use, provide clear choices and present information in a simple, reassuring, and humanizing manner. Many insurance companies are doing a great job at this, but there’s one critical user experience dimension to which they may not be paying sufficient attention: digital accessibility, or, making sure their websites, mobile sites and apps are usable to people with disabilities relying on assistive technologies.”
2. Industry leadership and reputation.
Ensuring that all your online properties, as well as physical locations, are accessible to everyone not only shows that you care about each of your customers and employees— including those with disabilities—but firmly establishes your leadership in the insurance industry, where there is plenty of room for improvement.
Only 25% of financial services and insurance companies test accessibility during software development, and fewer than 30% use meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) for accessibility, according to a 2020 study. On a practical level, this means that an eye-opening 75% of insurance firms may be excluding one-quarter of their potential customers from finding and securing the policies they need.
Inclusivity for people with disabilities is an important civil right, alongside racial and gender equality, to eliminate discrimination against those who have historically been overlooked or marginalized. Quite simply, making the investment to ensure that your digital assets are accessible is the right thing to do. Companies that continue to avoid this important issue may end up losing their good reputation as word spreads that they are practicing discrimination in an industry based on trustworthiness.
3. Revenue opportunity
If the first two reasons aren’t convincing enough, let’s look at how inaccessibility can impact your organization’s bottom line. The 1.85 billion people living with disabilities represent a tremendous emerging market—larger than China—that cannot be ignored. Not only do they directly control $1.9 trillion in annual disposable income, but they collectively influence a total of $13 trillion each year, when family & friends are included. Together, this huge circle of influence comprises 2/3 of the global population!
Given those astonishing numbers, how many potential customers might be left behind when those with disabilities are unable to access critical information about insurance policies? And how much lost revenue would that represent? According to an August 2019 article in Business News Daily, 66% of Internet transactions initiated by people with vision impairments, who typically use screen reader software, end in abandonment when they are unable to perceive or use the online functions as intended. That figure does not even include millions of others with mobility, cognitive, or auditory disabilities who encounter a wide range of barriers on the Internet.
Clearly, leaving out customers with disabilities means potentially leaving a lot of money on the table. While there may be an upfront investment, the results may make your business even more profitable in the long run.
4. It’s the law!
Wherever your organization operates in the world, chances are high that the laws there require its websites to conform with WCAG standards. As of this writing, countries with enforceable digital accessibility regulations include the U.S. (with several federal statutes), Canada, Japan, Israel, the European Union, and Australia. In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to all places of public accommodation, which applies to both physical locations and, more recently, publicly available websites.
While the governments themselves may not come after non-compliant companies directly, cases are being filed in increasing numbers by disabled individuals and their legal advocates. In fact, ADA Title III lawsuits in all areas of accessibility have averaged 11,000 each year from 2018-2020. In the area of digital accessibility specifically, lawsuits tripled from 2017 to 2018 and since then have risen by 75%; 2021 is projected to be a record-breaking year with more than 4,000 cases moving through the court system.
The most common legal claims for WCAG violations in websites are empty or redundant links, missing alternate text for images, and missing labels and page titles.
As an example, in 2016, Domino’s Pizza was sued by a visually impaired patron who could not order a custom pizza on their website and mobile app using screen reading software. Three years later, the Supreme Court denied Domino’s request to review and overturn a lower court decision. On June 23, 2021, the California Central District Court ruled that Domino’s had violated Title III of the ADA by not providing a website that was fully accessible and must bring it up to compliance with WCAG 2.0 standards, in addition to paying Robles $4,000 plus attorney’s fees.
Other high-profile organizations recently beset by accessibility lawsuits include Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Nike, Harvard University, Winn-Dixie, and Target Corporation. All of these cases demonstrate how the presence of an accessible website can save much time, effort, and expense (including legal fees, damages, steep fines, and PR/crisis management), along with brand reputation.
5. Insurance brands are at risk.
Although a vast majority of accessibility cases so far have been filed against online retailers and restaurant/hospitality chains, plaintiffs and attorneys are now starting to target Fortune 2000 companies, including those in the financial services and insurance industry—which is likely to continue increasing over the next several years. With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, more people in general are spending time online. That provides both consumers with disabilities and attorneys with increased opportunities to discover accessibility barriers, gather evidence, and file lawsuits, including extensive (and expensive) class action cases.
While some cases end up being dismissed, organizations being sued still face the expense of legal fees, damages, and fines already discussed in Section 4 above. Even more significantly for insurance and other financial services companies, non-conformance to ADA/WCAG standards can lead to a loss of contracts, funding, and other support from local, state, and federal government agencies, in addition to losing customers and revenues due to a tarnished reputation.
6. Widgets are not enough.
The increasing prevalence of overlays, widgets, and browser plug-ins—often provided for free by accessibility technology companies like Allyable—means that more and more organizations are making inclusivity a priority. That’s the good news! Overlays on a website provide individual users with a limited menu of customizable options, allowing them to adjust text size, color contrast, audio volume, and several other controls, often remembering their settings from previous visits.
Unfortunately, such surface measures only serve as a start, not a long-term solution on their own. Using widgets and overlays alone does not resolve the internal accessibility of the website itself, address screen reader compatibility, or adequately protect against lawsuits. That is why they should only be used as a first line of accessibility, in addition to meeting WCAG 2.0/2.1 standards within the source code—such as incorporating alt text, working links, labels, page titles, video captions, and more.
Avoiding the expense and effort of full compliance now by relying on widgets may lead to even higher legal and remediation costs in the future.
7. With Allyable, accessibility is fast, easy, and affordable!
We created the Allyable360° Digital Accessibility Platform to give companies a simple, cost-effective, yet comprehensive way to make their websites and other online assets accessible for visitors with a range of disabilities, with minimal coding required.
Our revolutionary, award-winning suite of advanced tools allows your technology team to find and remediate accessibility barriers in existing websites and develop new assets with accessibility in mind, through the use of AI crowdsourcing, image processing, and other high-tech solutions. Modules include:
- a11yToolbar™ – Our version of a free browser plug-in (upgrade option available).
- a11yAudit™ – Automatically scans, audits, and places WCAG compliance errors into critical, medium, and low-priority categories.
- a11yFix™ – Continuous monitoring for automatic remediation and flagging of violations by no-code wizards, supported by a growing knowledge base.
- a11yDev™ – Lets developers create assets with accessibility in mind and meet compliance guidelines in the design phase.
While the full Allyable360 system is recommended for large insurance enterprises, some tools can be used as standalone products or combined with one other module to meet a range of budgets. Our customers include financial service brands of all sizes, in a variety of configurations and subscription levels. Allyable’s products are ISO 27001 certified and our processes comply with all global privacy regulations, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the U.S. Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the State of California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), keeping our clients’ valuable data 100% secure.
We hope this article has persuaded you that digital accessibility is no longer optional, but of urgent necessity. How can Allyable’s state-of-the-art solution help your insurance websites and online assets become accessible? Find out with a customized full website scan and walk-through from a member of our team. Schedule a free site review today!