Accessibility and social inclusion: an empirical investigation on the adoption of World Wide Web Consortium guidelines on corporate websites

  • Francesca Conte
  • Carla Coppola
  • Domenico Sardanelli
  • Agostino Vollero
  • Alfonso Siano
Keywords: accessibility; inclusion; sustainability; W3C; corporate website


Frame of the research: The research focuses on the web accessibility practices of corporate websites. These practices are part of corporate sustainability actions.

Purpose of the paper: To assess compliance with the principles of the social inclusion of disabled users, the study investigates the adoption of accessibility requirements on the sustainable firms’ corporate websites.

Methodology: A content analysis was conducted to identify the application of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines to the websites of 311 firms classified in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index 2018. Data were collected from July to December 2019.

Findings: Results show that most corporate websites are poorly compliant with the accessibility guidelines, although some sectoral and geographic differences emerge. The study shows that compliance with W3C standards is associated with both the belonging to different business activities and the geographical origin of companies.

Research limits: The adoption of the content analysis method implies the typical limits associated with the subjective evaluation of researchers. The sample of firms examined may be expanded in future investigations, in compliance with the equitable distribution of companies regarding sectors and geographical areas.

Practical implications: Results allow managers and consultants of corporate digital communications to evaluate and improve corporate performance relating to accessibility practices on websites. Access to digital content and services is an indispensable requirement for implementing sustainability actions, capable of increasing social legitimacy and corporate reputation and developing disabled users’ engagement.

Originality of the paper: The study constitutes a first step in a line of research not yet investigated. The paper contributes to the debate on online accessibility for disabled users, providing the first empirical evidence on international guideline adoption by sustainable firms.


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