Our approach to accessibility is not just about checklists and standards but, it’s also a cultural shift for us. The need to address accessibility is increasing with each passing day. This influences how we work, build community, expand our knowledge and expertise, and increase advocacy.
Opportunity and responsibility
At its core, accessibility is the practice of creating products, services or environments in such a way that they are usable by people with different levels of ability. Accessibility depends on several components of development and interaction working together. At Cognizant, we firmly believe that providing equal access and availability of our products is a fundamental right and a crucial responsibility that comes with designing and developing them.
The digital world presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses to reach a diverse and extensive audience. From financial services and medical aids, to booking holidays and restaurants, all of these services have become digital. However, many organisations unintentionally exclude users with disabilities, creating barriers to access and limiting the reach of their digital products.
According to the World Health Organization, over 1 billion people globally have some form of disability, and here in the EU, 135 million. Ensuring that digital products and services are accessible to all users has financial benefits; increased share in existing markets, expansion into new markets, enhanced brand reputation, and increased revenue. Not to mention avoiding possible litigation! As of 28 June 2025, companies must ensure that their newly marketed products and services covered by the European Accessibility Act are accessible. In other words, newly marketed digital products and services must meet WCAG 2.1 criteria; customers can file a complaint to national courts or authorities if they do not. We are responsible for using design for good and enabling the underserved; to enable everyone to use digital products and services to engage with the world around them.
Companies like Microsoft and Apple are setting themselves apart as leaders, not only making their products and services as accessible as possible but ensuring that everyone knows about them, whether it is through sharing knowledge, like Microsoft's inclusive design toolkit or making an inspiring commercial, like Apple's The Greatest.
You may have heard of the term 'inclusive design'. It's closely related to accessibility. Inclusive design is a superset of accessibility: in addition to ability, it considers access to software and hardware, internet connection for online resources, language and culture, economic situation, and others. We often use these terms interchangeably, and for the sake of simplicity, we will just use 'accessibility' in this article — in the broadest sense of the term.
Time is money…and reputation
Accessibility is often an afterthought, if it's being considered at all. More often than not, the need to do something about it only arises once a significant number of users are negatively impacted, and it starts affecting a company's bottom line or until legal challenges are faced.
Remediation – fixing the issues discovered – often requires more substantial changes to the product because the issues are usually fundamental design choices or code implementations, meaning more time and money.
All of which can be avoided.
The risk doesn't necessarily end there. A bad user experience can harm a brand's reputation. Customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience. In addition, word of mouth and communication via online channels is influential in communities of people with disabilities for products and services with poor accessibility.
The earlier the better
The principle of shifting left focuses on moving tasks as early in the product life cycle as possible. When visualising a development process schematically, we start with something like ‘establish’ on the left-hand side and end with something like ‘reflect’ on the right-hand side. Historically, accessibility has been considered the developer's domain. However, everyone on the team is responsible for designing, building, operating and iterating a digital experience. For example, one of the most common accessibility failures of home pages is low-contrast text. If a designer uses colours that meet contrast requirements and checks the design before handing it to the developer, then there is no extra cost. This simple example demonstrates that shifting left must be integral to the process.
By shifting left, we are addressing accessibility more efficiently and reducing the cost of rework or repair.