Gian Wild, Founder
What is the core business of AccessibilityOz?
Our core business is working with organizations to make sure that their websites can be used by people with disabilities. There is a set of international guidelines that we follow. I started the company in 2011 in Australia; we opened a US branch in 2015 and we also have a European branch. I started working in accessibility 21 years ago and I worked on the very first Australian accessible website for the Vision Australia Foundation.
I have worked on the guidelines that everyone (should) follow around the world and speak regularly at conferences, at the UN, among others. I perform a series of tests yearly on various social media about video accessibility thereby checking for social compliance. I will run the following webinar in April:
I run the company, travel around the world and speak at conferences. Three quarters of my time I am in the States and one quarter of my time in Europe.
How did you end up in the US?
There are very few accessibility companies around and there are even fewer accessibility companies that have an actual product. We have a product that automatically tests the website for compliance so you don’t have to do a lot of manual tests. We were the first organization in Australia to build such a product. What we found is that the Accessibility market in Australia wasn’t mature enough to support us and the research and development that our product needed. It was time to break into another market.
First litigations took place in Sydney regarding the Olympics website. They were fined a $25,000. Target was sued in the US, which was settled out of court for $6 Million. Australia fines you as a warning while the US has litigation pay-outs. Pay-outs in the US are larger, and the litigation atmosphere is different, therefore people are willing to spend more money to make their website more accessible. In addition, the US market is 10 times the market of Australia. Netflix released a series about a blind superhero, Daredevil, which resulted in a big uproar as the audio descriptions were missing. They did release the audio within three days, and it was very good quality. Here is an example of the audio/blind narration.
AccessibilityOz now services 114 California community colleges, and another big client of ours is McDonald's. It is the fourth year in a row that they are working with us. There are not so many big companies that operate in Australia.
An interesting fact that not many people are aware of is that 20 percent of the population has some kind of significant disability. If there are five people in a room, at least one of them needs some kind of accessibility accommodation. On top of that accessibility accommodations are actually helpful for all users. There are a lot of statistics about how an e-commerce website makes 16 percent more revenue when their videos have captions compared to videos that don’t have captions. With captions, you get also more results via Google search. I personally often look at videos on social media on a plane, for example, with the sound off. Completion of a video (watching it until the end) doubles when videos have captions.
Pitfalls and tips and tricks for entering the US Market?
It may sound self-serving to say it like this, yet, when we had a challenge, we just talked to TABS and you guys sorted it out. Usually, I sent an email to Jacob or Laura and they provide me with an answer and if they don’t have the answer right away they will find it. An example is finding the right bank. All I had to do was talk to Jacob about what bank I should open an account with, as there is only one that can service us. I didn’t think starting in the US was a difficult endeavor that is all thanks to TABS.
So, in order to enter the US market successfully, I would recommend to:
A. Involve TABS
B. Don’t wait for your first sale
If you are serious, make sure that you have all the things that you need. Taxes are different in every State. Australia only has 7 states, and all have the same tax rules. In the US, you have to file a tax return in each state that you work in. I remember I was so overwhelmed. TABS mentioned, "don’t worry about it, that is what the CPA does", which proved correct.
When AccessiblityOz came to the US, we were not in a financially stable position. TABS has always been very reasonably priced. At no point did I receive a bill wondering about the amount. If your time is worth nothing you can probably figure it all out yourself, and by all means, do it. Yet, TABS saved us a lot of time. Having a professional organization to support your business needs counts. In expanding to the United States my best decision was involving TABS. Everyone was telling me how hard it is to expand your business to the States. Yet, to me, that has been proven to not necessarily be true.
How did you get in touch with TABS?
I got introduced to TABS via Austrade. Austrade has an office in every major city in Australia. They warned us that it is a lot of work: Employer ID, Bank account, Taxes, Payroll etc. etc.
They referred us to Jacob; he was lovely, as is everyone in the TABS team.
The first couple of times, we had two to three-hour meetings. TABS is always willing to spend as much time as I needed. They had answers or knew where to find the right answer. They introduced me to our lawyer and our accountant, who are both excellent. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it if it wasn’t for TABS.
What to do if you receive a litigation letter?
Get in touch with us. We offer different rates. For example, we half our prices for not-for-profit organizations. Our motto is to make the world a more accessible place. If you have no money at all, still contact us. We can provide you with accessibility factsheets that you can send to your developers. We also work with ADA compliant development firms that we can refer you too. We can also review design, codes etc. Also, there are some great resources on our website. You can see what you do wrong; you can learn about accessibility errors regarding images, for example. We offer various factsheets, videos, and a number of articles and presentations. Lastly, we have a product called OzWiki. I am pleased to be able to give any TABS client free access to OzWiki.We usually charge $39,- per month, but we are happy to share this as freebie for TABS clients.
So do contact us!!
Find below some interesting links for further reading:
Gian Wild’s Presentation regarding: ‘Prioritising accessibility in the build of a website’.
View or download the presentation here (Dropbox)