Incentives for Business

To encourage businesses to go above and beyond the minimum accessibility requirements there must be clear incentives supporting the business case. The benefits of increased accessibility and the path to get there must be demonstrated clearly so as to show value to businesses lacking tools to make it happen or already struggling with training costs, regulations and standards.

Desired Outcomes

Specific strategies to motivate uptake of certification and accessibility, with supporting rationale and outline of incentive structure.

Phase 1 Findings

Making the economic argument

There is an economic argument, supported by market research, that accessibility positively impacts a business’s bottom line in the long run. That said, businesses need clear demonstration that they will get a return for their investment in accessibility that goes beyond the minimum standard.

The messaging surrounding a certification model would address two key questions from business: “Why should I do this?” and “What’s in it for me?” Overall, businesses will see a greater return if accessibility is integrated into a company’s growth strategy – from management policies to tools for increased productivity. Further, a focus on productivity and enabling technologies could link accessibility to other business challenges, such as adapting to a digital economy or more collaborative management structures.

Appealing to different business types and sizes

The certification model should account for small businesses’ lack of capacity and large organizations’ conflicting mandates and regulatory fatigue. Several participants suggested an approach that starts by asking what each business’s customers need. This embraces the idea of universal access: access is a benefit to all consumers and employees. This explicitly links a business’s accessibility to its operating efficiency and could re-position accessibility to be a foundation of doing business. If market competitiveness, based on community expectations, came to be based on an organization’s level of accessibility, businesses would be more likely to adopt it.

Addressing attitudinal barriers

Attitudes and a lack of awareness are the main barriers to accessibility; the main strength of the certification approach will be in how it addresses these barriers and encourages a cultural shift. Many businesses want to be accessible but do not know what that means or how to do it. Often increasing employee awareness of accessibility and the needs of persons with disabilities in the community can make as much impact as structural changes. Recognition for organizations that do it well could act as its own incentive for business.


Additional Context for Phase 2 Discussion

Existing certification or recognition-based programs rely on a combination of internal and external incentives to build awareness and encourage uptake. Internal incentives to adopt accessible practices include:

  • Increased market access and ability to serve the 6.2 million consumers in Canada with a disability and their 11.5 million friends and family members
  • Increased revenue from the $55 billion disposable income of persons with disabilities in Canada
  • Greater access to high quality talent

Existing programs draw on three major types of external incentive:

  • Marketing and branding incentives. For example, Fair Trade Certified labels or LEED certification allow organizations to publicly demonstrate their accomplishments
  • Tax breaks or reductions. For example, B corporations in Philadelphia are eligible for a tax credit of $4000 for tax years 2012 – 2017
  • Financial incentives. For example, WorkSafeBC's voluntary Partners in Injury and Disability Prevention Program offers incentive payments to employers possessing one or more Certificates of Recognition

Incentives are only effective insofar as businesses and the public are aware of them. Successful programs build their area of recognition into a competitive advantage or point for collaboration

  • Brand recognition, in the case of LEED, B Corp, Trip Advisor, or Organic labels, gives the programs momentum
  • The corporate social responsibility movement gained drive when a “triple bottom line” became the normal
  • Programs such as Excellence Canada or the U.S. Green Building Council offer actual awards to celebrate success

Additional Parameters

  • If certification succeeds in shifting mainstream awareness of barriers to accessibility, incentives should evolve accordingly
  • Different business types and sizes will approach certification with different competencies and challenges. Incentives should be tailored accordingly 

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