The State of Digital Accessibility in the Corporate World (Q2, 2022)
It seems intuitive that the bigger a company is, the more important it is for them to ensure their product’s accessibility, and it turns out that the data agrees.
Digital Accessibility Is Correlated with Market Success
We conducted research about the state of enterprise digital accessibility, and it showed that on the whole, the larger and more successful the company, the more likely they are to have reached a high level of maturity with regards to digital accessibility. Though there are far too many factors at play in the success of a business to determine causation, there is certainly a strong correlation between success and the state of digital accessibility a company has.
Using publicly available data, we reviewed the companies that comprise the S&P 500, the 50 largest public SAAS companies in the United States, the 300 largest software companies worldwide, and the top 100 US universities. We searched for how many roles in their companies are directly involved in accessibility, how many of those roles were on a senior level, how many of them have dedicated accessibility teams or leads, and how the total market capitalization (or market cap) in each category is distributed among the companies that have advanced accessibility standards and those that don’t.
The Data – Top Companies Prioritize Accessibility
[image description: A chart titled "Companies with A11y lead out of S&P 500". The y-axis, titled “companies with a11y lead (%),” shows percentages from 0 to 100 in intervals of 25. The x-axis, titled “S&P 5-500 (number)” shows the S&P 500 grouped as numbers 500 through 5 in intervals of 50 until the last 50, which include the top 20, 15, 10, then 5. The bars gain in height as the numbers of the S&P get smaller, ranging from 20.2% to 100%, increasing incrementally across the chart.]
Though the data in each category varied, one thing that was consistent across the board was that as you approach the players at the very top of their game, the rate of accessibility teams or leads rises to 100%. In the S&P 500, all top five companies had an accessibility team/lead, of the top ten companies, seven had an accessibility team/lead, of the top hundred, 43% did, and of all five hundred, 20% did. Of the companies at the top, the ones that lacked an accessibility team/lead were those not primarily focused on providing digital services, such as a well-known soft drink maker and an investment firm.
When looking specifically at software and SAAS companies, the numbers are similarly distributed. All top five of the top 50 US based SAAS companies have an accessibility team/lead, 70% of the top ten do, and 40% of all fifty do. Keeping in mind that this list is only a tenth of the size of the S&P 500, it makes sense that those involved in providing digital services would have overall higher numbers in accessibility than a general index.
[image description: A chart titled "Companies with A11y lead out of top 50 SAAS US". The y-axis, titled “companies with a11y lead (%),” shows percentages from 0 to 100 in intervals of 25. The x-axis, titled “top 50 US SAAS companies” shows the top 50 US-based SAAS companies grouped as numbers 50 through 5 in intervals of 10 until the last 20, where it changes to intervals of 5. The bars gain in height as the numbers of the top 50 companies get smaller, ranging from 40% to 100%, increasing continuously across the chart.]
Of the 300 largest software companies worldwide, the top ten all have an accessibility team/lead, of the top hundred, 35% do, and of the three hundred, 18.67% do. This also makes sense, considering that the sample is not exclusive to the United States. Though 216 of the 300 are US based, those based abroad don’t have to adhere to the same accessibility standards and have less fear of lawsuits motivating them.
[image description: A chart titled "Companies with A11y lead out of the top 300 SW". The y-axis, titled “companies with a11y (%),” shows percentages from 0 to 100 in intervals of 25. The x-axis, titled “Top 300 SW (World)” shows the Top 300 software companies in the world grouped as numbers 300 through 10 in intervals of 50 until the last 50, which include the top 25, 15, then 10. The bars gain in height as the numbers of the 300 companies get smaller, ranging from 18.67% to 100%, increasing steadily across the chart.]
The Data – Market Capitalization Emphasizes the Disparity Between Top and Bottom
Measuring how many of x number of companies has an accessibility team/lead may make it easy to fall into the trap of assuming that each company is weighted similarly; framing the data in the context of market capitalization can help to understand the significance of the fact that those at the top are far more accessible than those at the bottom.
The S&P 500 makes up between 70% and 80% of the total US stock market capitalization. As of June 15th, 2022, its total market cap sat at $31.982 trillion. While only 20% of the S&P 500 had an accessibility team/lead, the market cap of those companies makes up 54.5% of that $31.982 trillion. The top five companies alone have a market cap of $8.17567 trillion, or 25.56% of the total market cap of the S&P 500. That puts those top five companies alone at between 17.89% and 20.45% of the total US stock market cap. That is, simply put, huge.
Of the top 50 SAAS companies in the US, the total market cap is $1.386 trillion, and of that, 67.7% is held by companies with an accessibility team/lead. And even more severe, the total market cap of the top 300 software companies worldwide is $8.449 trillion, with almost 90% of that being held by companies with an accessibility team/lead.
[image description: an apple pie with a piece cut out]
The market is disproportionately dominated by companies that care for their digital accessibility. Those at the top without dedicated accessibility team/leads are overwhelmingly those to whom digital accessibility doesn’t apply.
A Tidal Wave of Accessibility
Between August 2020 and July 2021, the number of jobs on LinkedIn with the term “accessibility” in their titles grew by 78%, according to the Wall Street Journal[i]. And compared with the previous year, they grew by 38%. Without knowing the absolute numbers those percentages refer to, we can’t compare it with our search results, but we estimate that over the last year, jobs relating to accessibility have increased by a similarly large margin (if not by an even larger one). Our search produced about 500,000 jobs relating to accessibility, 300,000 of which were roles on a senior level or above. The bulk of the remaining 200,000 jobs were for entry level positions. This indicates nothing about the value of those jobs to the individual or the company, but it’s interesting nonetheless to see these large numbers as organizations begin to take a widespread interest in digital accessibility.
Having discussed the data from the enterprise world, we now turn to the last category of our research: the top 100 US universities. Universities are the proofing grounds for the future of the US workforce – especially in IT and software related roles. They are clearly included in the ADA’s list of bodies that provide public accommodations, and perhaps for that reason, 82 of the top 100 in the US have a dedicated accessibility team/lead. However, it could also be the case that they offer an indication of what’s to come. Universities face stiff competition for prospective students and donors – they prioritize reaching the best talent in order to continue to survive the increasingly tough market they’re a part of[ii]. Given the recent stock market crashes and expected continued downward trends in the general market, the universities’ behavior could tell us to expect an uptick in the rates of digital accessibility among those who remain on the other side of the recession.
The Chicken or the Egg?
Whether digital accessibility is a natural outcome of an already successful organization or a cause of its success, we expect to see the trends that seem to be taking shape to continue. We expect to see broader adoption of sophisticated digital accessibility solutions in the coming years. We also expect organizations that neglect their products’ accessibility not to do well in the current and immediate economy. However it happens, we expect to see the market temper the severity of the contrast in digital accessibility between top and bottom that exists now.
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