What the Impossible Burger Demonstrates About Accessibility

July 5, 2022

What is impossible?

Have you ever had an Impossible Burger? They were served at this year's July 4 cookout and it got me thinking.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I have eaten veggie burgers in some form or another since I was a kid. I don’t think they’re bad. But just about everyone agrees that the Impossible Burger is something completely different. It’s not quite beef but it’s very close. It’s certainly plausible that you could confuse them. This has opened up doors. Impossible Burgers are now sold in restaurants ranging from Burger King to your local bistro.

They may not be particularly healthy but if your goal is to reduce the amount of meat eaten (whether for environmental or moral reasons), I’d say the Impossible Burger is a far better bet than the previous strategy of trying to convince people to deprive themselves.

How can we incentivize accessibility?

The Impossible Burger is a great example of how offering attractive alternatives can be a lot more effective at getting people to make good choices. It is a lot harder to convince someone using moral persuasion. And this point stands regardless of the justice of your cause.

Not to get too far off topic, but the U.S. has started making progress on averting global warming and moving towards carbon neutrality by developing awesome new technologies like electric cars and renewable energy. It’s also not surprising that this has a greater impact than trying to convince people to give up their air conditioners, ditch their cars for the bus, and eat bugs.

The lessons for accessibility are clear. There are people who will respond to our sermons about why accessibility is a civil rights issue. And there are some that will audit and remediate their sites out of fear of legal liability. However, in the long run, we can do far more by taking steps to make accessibility an easy, pleasant, and attractive option relative to the alternatives.

The limitations of luxury products

There is another side of this: cost.

I went on my local supermarket’s website; you can buy ground beef for a bit over $4 per pound. An Impossible Burger will cost you almost $9 per pound! Beyond Burger are are a whopping $11.98/lb. In spite of the high prices, there is obviously a big market for plant-based beef burgers.

But imagine what would happen if a plant-based burger cost less than (or even the same as) the meat equivalent. It’s not hard to imagine the ways in which that would be a huge game changer. By the same token, the day that JUST’s plant-based eggs are cost competitive with the real deal, I would probably consider using them.

Of course, the high-end status of some of these products is probably part of the point. And the high prices draw in new competitors including store brand generics at a lower price. I won’t pretend to know where the plant-based product market is heading, but you can imagine a path to where high quality substitutes are the more cost-effective option.

You can see something similar happening in the car market. I would never splurge for a Tesla, but the next time I buy a car in a few years, it will probably be an electric model made by a traditional car brand like Toyota or Ford and it’s likely it will be priced competitively to the equivalent gas model (if gas powered cars are even an option by then)!

Mass market accessibility

This is where I would love for accessibility to go.

For too long, accessibility services have been the province of highly skilled professionals who have built a market around large companies with budgets to match. Of course, Fortune 500 companies are not the only accessible websites, but many smaller businesses find that becoming more accessible is out of reach.

What if we were able to make accessibility so affordable that skimping or neglecting it would make no financial sense?

(If you prioritize accessibility from the start, this is already possible! Building an accessible website shouldn’t cost you any more; and it can save you time and money in having to address accessibility after the fact.)

We aren’t there and we may never fully get there. But in the meantime, finding ways to nurture a market for accessibility among smaller and midsize organizations is the absolute best way to make a noticeable dent in bringing about a more accessible web. One customer of ours, a small digital agency, had previously attempted to work with several established “traditional” accessibility audit vendors on behalf of their clients. The problem was that the client did not have the budget for a fully comprehensive audit and the accessibility consultancies were uninterested in finding ways to help them economize.

Overlays are not the answer

Automated accessibility services like Accessibe or EqualWeb understand this dynamic very well and I’ve said before that their diagnosis of the market is spot on (even as they do not come close to delivering what they promise). And their success has demonstrated that there is a market for accessibility on a budget.

Instead, what we need is for accessibility to be in higher supply. Right now, even at the current high prices that some accessibility consultancies command, there are not enough experienced accessibility subject matter experts. We need more consultants that choose to provide highly customer-responsive accessibility help.

At Access Armada, we are doing our part to build strategies and services that can help the underserved middle of the market make big strides for accessibility and grow their markets in the most efficient and high impact way. For now, we haven’t found many other accessibility vendors taking the same approach but we think that won’t last forever. Our hope is that we can be successful in expanding the market and do our small part to incentivize far more businesses to take the plunge in making their sites accessible. 

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