Equitable digital products and services for People and Planet!

tagged with Accessibility Community

Looking back over 2023, and ahead to 2024, to create more people- and planet-centred digital products and services

Here we are folks, December has arrived! Another year has gone by, where did the time go?! I always find this time of year to be a good opportunity for reflection - to look back at how far we’ve come, but also to remember what’s important to us both individually and collectively as we look ahead to the new year.

People and Planet will always be the most important factors and motivators in the work that we do. If we don’t keep people at the centre, our digital products and services aren’t accessible and usable. And if we don’t consider the planet and stay mindful of the impact we’re having, we leave a poor environmental legacy for future generations to deal with. We all have a responsibility to ourselves, others and the planet to make digital solutions that work for all stakeholders.

Looking back at 2023

This year has seen the creation of the Sustainability Community Team at Umbraco, which has provided a space for myself and other passionate members to ideate and collaborate to work towards a greener Umbraco. Not only have we created sustainability documentation in the form of the best practice guide, some of my teammates spoke at Codegarden and other events, we launched a community sustainability competition (which you can still enter btw!), and began to look at creating a training package.

Designing and building for people and planet isn’t a small task. It takes a collaborative approach, transparency and the acceptance that our assumptions might be wrong. Sometimes this challenges us to think outside of the box, which can be uncomfortable territory for many of us. 2023 for me has been about being brave, trying things out, with clients and independently and seeing what we learn from it. It can be so easy to succumb to the pressures of hard deadlines and client demands, but therein also lies an opportunity to deliver better long-term value to all stakeholders by putting accessibility and sustainability front and centre.

How do accessibility and sustainability intersect?

Within the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals there are plenty of overlaps between accessibility and sustainability. Often the practical benefits of one approach will hold benefits for the other too.

Responsible consumption and production offers a prime example. Working smarter not harder is not only good for our sanity, but for the planet too. If we have to do the same task twice, it doubles the amount of time and resources required. If we consider the impact we want to have  first time, we reduce the amount of ongoing work required to fix things later down the line. A key statistic that has stuck with me is that it’s 200 times more expensive to retrofit accessibility fixes, rather than work accessibility considerations and inclusive design into the original process. And where these ongoing retrospective fixes are required, this translates into a greater degree of carbon weighting for these digital products and services, and greater CO2 emissions.

More on the practical hints and tips from Rachel Breeze and Rick Butterfield!

Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond

In the next year, I predict that we will see an upturn in demand for accessible and sustainable digital products, as part of a wider shift towards environmental, social, and governance (ESG). I think this demand will be partly driven by demand from our clients to have more widely used, and well regarded, digital services that serve the needs of their users and are supported by substantive sustainability attributes. In 2025, there are also some pretty big legislative changes coming for digital services, including websites, so I predict that 2024 is going to be a year of conversations, preparation and action! If your clients use their website to promote or sell to customers in the European Union (including the UK), then you might want to start preparing for the following changes…

The European Accessibility Act (2025)

In 2025, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) comes into effect. This legislation will force organisations to meet specific accessibility criteria for all products and services including websites, mobile apps, self-checkouts, advertising and marketing.  Businesses that don’t comply risk large fines, meaning it’s important to act as soon as possible.  

Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive

The CSRD aims to enhance the quality and comparability of sustainability information disclosed by companies. It expands reporting requirements to include a broader range of ESG matters. Starting from 1 January 2024 more than 50,000 European companies will be subjected to stricter sustainability reporting standards. Although the scope of reporting includes environmental factors, it also includes reporting of social responsibilities and diversity.

In summary

Accessibility and sustainability are both rooted in principles of social responsibility and ethical behaviours, both of which are rising to ever greater prominence driven by consumer demand, legislative developments, and global targets.

By prioritising accessibility and usability, we improve the overall user experience for everyone, not just those with disabilities. When we adopt user-centred design as a default in our processes, we create products and services that meet the needs of all our users. This has a knock-on effect improving adoption and reducing the likelihood of waste through early product obsolescence. As such, user-centred design should be an iterative process, which prioritises longevity and long-term sustainability.