This week, we will host the first-ever SAP Accessibility Summit for our engineers and with internal and external speakers. To date we have 4,200 registrations, which shows that colleagues are keen to learn more about where we stand and where we are heading.

I’ve shared this story before: My grandfather went blind just one year before I was born. Our own way of interacting helped me learn that there is more than one way to communicate, and much of what he said still remains with me to this day.

The reality is that people with disabilities still experience a divide in accessing software. This must change. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people worldwide have some sort of disability – or, better said, different abilities.

To create a more inclusive environment, everyone must feel equally empowered with their individual abilities. We take accessibility support in our products very seriously and continuously strive to improve our offerings. Our efforts to intensify the work on improving software accessibility are, just like security, a top priority for SAP product teams.

Accessibility is therefore a substantial part of our user experience strategy and a core priority for product quality; not just an afterthought.

Thinking one step ahead, accessibility is not only a necessity, but also an opportunity — both from a business and an ethical perspective. If you look at the economic power of people with disabilities, it is impressive to see that they cover an annual spending power of US$6 trillion. It is smart and it is our social responsibility to embrace accessibility. Including people with disabilities is nothing else than a win for all: for innovation, for business, but most importantly, for people and society.

Hidden Benefits of Built-In Accessibility

Accessibility fosters innovation that we can all benefit from — just think of touch devices or live captions. Making accessibility features a benefit for all is the result of inclusive design methodology, which is an integral part of the SAP Fiori design system and SAPUI5.

One example of an inclusively designed implementation is our accessibility themes for SAP Fiori 3, SAP high-contrast black and SAP high-contrast white. These themes make it possible for people with visual impairments to more easily access our software, but they also have additional benefits for all users. For example, the themes are built to operate under a wide range of light-sensitive conditions, such as sunlight hitting the screen and window reflections. Over the past few years, we have seen the widespread adoption of the “dark mode” become more mainstream. That’s because its purported benefits — reducing eye strain and encouraging better sleep patterns — are embraced by all users. It has become so popular that it is used as a default preference for many users, as are dark contrast UIs for mobile in general.

Another example of accessible design being embraced by all users is the zooming function realized by responsive design, meaning that visual and text-based content retain layout and structure. This is designed for users with visual impairments, but who among us doesn’t use the zoom function when screen sharing or after a long day of staring at the screen?

Developing products with accessibility needs in mind reduces complexity and improves the user experience. Thanks to a change in perspective, you simply look at your products and processes from a different angle and with a greater capacity for empathy. What emerges as a result — a clear information structure, a consistent and simple design, and inclusive components such as tool tips — are not only key for users who require these assistive tools, but benefit every user.

More Than Just a Corporate Initiative

Lastly, accessibility can also be an enabler for overcoming the shortage of highly skilled professionals. By giving everyone a fair chance and including everyone in the labor market, we just might be able to solve some of the current societal challenges that digitalization implies.

SAP is deeply committed to equality and inclusion,–which for me is a mindset rather than a corporate initiative. That is also why we decided to replace insensitive language with a more inclusive language to actively fight racism and discrimination. As a software company, we know about the benefits of bringing people with diverse backgrounds together to drive innovation. And this mindset reaches from our product engineering world to the world of our users – as we continue to strive for user-centricity in everything we do.

I look forward to making the outcomes of the SAP Accessibility Summit a tangible improvement for our customers.

Thomas Saueressig is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Product Engineering.
This story was originally published on LinkedIn.