Rick Williams talks about the results of the Click-Away Pound 2019 survey

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The results of the newly-released Click-Away Pound 2019 survey show that UK retailers lose out on £17 billion by ignoring the online needs of shoppers with disabilities.

Click-Away Pound is a research survey conducted by Freeney Williams designed to explore the online shopping experience of people with disabilities in the UK and the cost to business of ignoring shoppers who are disabled.

The Click-Away Pound 2016 survey was the first research that quantified the online spending of users with access needs and the results showed that online shopping was a very poor and limiting experience for many people with disabilities. For example, 71% of customers with disabilities who have access needs said they clicked away from websites that they find difficult to use.

We caught up with Rick Williams, Click-Away Pound survey co-author and Freeney Williams co-founder, to find out what has changed since 2016.

Why did you first start the Click-Away Pound Survey in 2016?

RW: Website accessibility and usability has been a major issue for many disabled people with access needs for many years and little progress was being made despite the law, guidance, and publicity.

We wanted to find a way of persuading business that website accessibility and usability was a real bottom-line issue and show what they were potentially missing out on. We thought this might be a more effective persuader as other approaches had not worked.

According to the results of the Click-Away Pound Survey 2019, have things got better or worse since the 2016 survey?

RW: Generally things haven’t changed from the user viewpoint – it is all rather disappointing. The percentage of those who click away from inaccessible websites has remained more or less the same, but the actual number has significantly increased simply because of the numbers of disabled people now on-line.

Also, the click away spend has now increased by approximately 65% up to £17.1 billion, which is approximately 10% of the UK’s total on-line spend.

Another interesting fact is the major increase in those people using phones to access online shopping, with over 50% of disabled people now using a phone or tablet. This has major implications for ensuring apps are accessible as well as websites. This trend is only likely to increase.

Why do you think that things haven’t improved?

RW: To be honest I’ve absolutely no idea – it is all very frustrating. The original survey was, and still is, widely read and referenced and the whole issue is getting more traction.

We are coming to the conclusion that the current approach such as the law, business case, and PR issues aren’t delivering what is needed. Maybe we need to change the law and make the obligations much more specific as they are now for the public sector.

What do you think are the key takeaway points from the Click-Away Pound Survey 2019?

RW: The continued lack of understanding of business to this issue continues to be the key thing for me. This is illustrated by the numbers of people who said they would not bother to contact the business if they had an accessibility problem: in 2016 this was 7% and in 2019 it was 8%.

If any figure shows how little business understand this customer profile it is this figure. The key reason given, of course, is that it isn’t worth the effort as no one understands what is being discussed and nothing changes anyway!

How do the 2019 survey results make you feel?

RW: Frankly, frustrated and disappointed, and like we are banging our heads against the proverbial brick wall. It is like businesses don’t care about this major potential income stream and that they don’t understand the impact of meeting the needs of disabled shoppers.

If you had a magic wand and you could change one part of UK online accessibility, what would it be and why?

RW: I would want organisations to take a much more proactive role in specifying the accessibility and usability of a website into any website or app design specification. This should be underpinned by the requirement for developers to demonstrate how they have done this.

I would also suggest that organisations should ensure their management systems are up to delivering this requirement. This turns the issue into business as usual, which is what it should be.

Given the Click-Away Pound Survey 2019 results, what action, if any, would you like to see the UK government take now?

RW: We have come to the conclusion that specific regulations are the way forward. This is now the case for all public sector websites.

Clearly the current law is not fit for purpose as whilst websites are covered by the Equality Act 2010 no cases have been taken to court. Conversely, there is endless data available about the importance of this issue in terms of the bottom line, image, and PR, but this hasn’t worked either.

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