Empowering the 650 million of Us

Seema, a passionate researcher at our Research and Development group, shares her story, some key facts about disability and how the industry can adopt digital accessibility as an important aspect of design and planning in the #BuiltEnvironment.

April 19, 2022
A down-syndrome man attending education class in community center, inclusivity of disabled person.

A down-syndrome man attending education class in community center, inclusivity of disabled person.

Did you know that one in six people in the working-age population has a disability? Or that 650 million people around the world have some form of disability? If these statistics surprise you, then you need to read on. In this blog post, I have put together my story, some key facts about disability and how it affects everyone. It will also look at how technology companies can adopt digital accessibility as the core of their development approach to make their products accessible to all.

My first experience of understanding accessibility started way before I even knew the meaning of the word. As a child, growing up in the mountains, I would observe the different slopes and analyse how uncomfortable and unsafe it was for me to ride a bicycle. Growing up in India, the streets around me were not the best in terms of walkability. They were an integration of urban services and the main road, in such way you would never know where the drain starts and where it ends. Other sensory factors like noise, heat, change in air quality, and the impact of all these on a human’s behaviour are areas that made me curious to understand more. I remember always holding my parent’s hand until I was 17 years old. The environment made me uncomfortable. A teenager who feels unsafe in their community environment, all because it is inaccessible!

Throughout my undergraduate degree, I learned that these experiences are crucial to my understanding of better inclusivity and accessibility. My curiosity about accessibility has made me passionate about the lack of priority on the matter in different fields. Through this internship experience, I plan to explore the need and assess the digital accessibility and its approach toward making an accessible built environment

 

Accessibility and the Digital World

A person and a differently abled child looking at a tablet
A person and a differently abled child looking at a tablet

The concept of disability is one that impacts every single person on earth, in some way or another. This includes those who are directly affected as well as people whose lives will be changed for generations because they lived alongside someone with a physical inability or cognitive challenge.

Disability is not a new issue, in fact, the UN and World Bank estimate that about 25% of the population is either directly or indirectly affected by disability. In the past, people with disabilities were often hidden away or treated differently because of society's lack of understanding and empathy. Thankfully, things are changing. There is now a global movement towards disability inclusion, which aims to break down barriers and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of life.

Technology has played a huge role in this movement, with Assistive Technology (AT) devices helping people with disabilities to access information and communicate more effectively. However, technology companies have not always been good at taking into account the needs of people with disabilities when designing their products. This is starting to change, as more and more companies are beginning to see the value in creating products that are accessible to all.

So, how can you make sure that your product is accessible? The first step is to ensure that you have an inclusive mindset when designing and developing your product.

Digital accessibility is the design and development of websites, applications, and other digital products that can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities. By making your website or application accessible, you can ensure that everyone has equal access to the content and functionality. And the only way a product can be stated a success is when ALL can access it.

Digital accessibility is a necessity and is thus, soon to be incorporated in ICT policies. As a part of the global commitment ‘Leave No one Behind’, all ITU members shall include the Strategic goal No. 2 ‘inclusiveness’ and its target 2.9. which says, ‘By2023, enabling environments ensuring accessible telecommunications/ICTs for persons with disabilities should be established in countries.’

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has recognized accessibility to the internet as one of the key issue gapping to an inclusive society. The International Telecommunication Union mandates accessibility associated with particular study groups, questions and recommendations.

In a survey, as part of Business Taskforce on Accessible technology and the One Voice for accessible ICT Coalition, it was summarized that each business goal should include accessibility in their ICT to reach new markets, maximize engagement and productivity amongst employees, providing high end products and services, improvise supply chain management, and minimize legal action. While technical standards are being developed to cater a certain disability need, it is important to reconsider the impact of disability to an individual. Also considering that accessibility needs to be incorporated at all design and development stages of products, creating an accessible product as per dedicated guidelines can be a targeted solution.

Every individual can play a part in enhancing the accessibility and there are a number of factors to consider while making your website or application accessible, including:

  • Explore the development of technologies or product associated to enhance the usability for the persons with the disability.
  • To have a matrix that caters to the people from all background and disabilities to make solutions accessible for all.
  • Encourage to abide the rules provided by the Articles of UNCRPD and national governments laws for persons with the disability.
  • To include accessibility and inclusivity as a target mission at company’s management level.
  • The accessibility to be mandated in the software & hardware and, to educate, encourage and initiate the accessible features within the system of work.
  • Developing an accessibility action plan for the organization along with implementation plan and assigned responsibilities.
  • Organizing disability awareness training programs within the organization.

 

A compulsion, not a choice!

Accessibility is a crucial human need just as food, shelter or home which is associated with our daily habits. It is thus, essential to take a step forward towards the digital accessibility as it is the 21st century’s new normal. Considering this, Hloov plans to take this initiative and implement accessibility on all its online platforms. At present, Hloov is executing digital accessibility measures on its website according to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. As an intern at Hloov, I got a chance to work on this project where my role is to research on the different digital accessibility measures, guidelines and build a comprehensive checklist for the website. This matrix will help the software developers, architects and associated professionals to implement websites accessibility in a systematic format and will be a further new addition to websites for not just people with disability but all.

I have always been an individual who has looked at things through the lens of accessibility and considering my passion, this opportunity could be my contribution to the bigger goal for achieving accessibility because at the end– “We are not wishing for a world that is perfect, but a world where it is possible for all”.

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Digital Accessibility
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