June 29th, 2014
A campaign urging all UK political parties to add digital accessibility pledges to their 2015 election manifestos has been launched by the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition.
The coalition is an umbrella group of organisations from all sectors including Leonard Cheshire Disability; BT; Middlesex University; Business Disability Forum and Barclays Bank.
Its new campaign has two main parts: a direct approach to the political parties and a petition on the open campaigns website ’38 Degrees’.
It is centred on a call for “all political parties to reaffirm their previously stated goals for equal opportunities and economic growth, by adding a statement to their 2015 election manifestos pledging to improve access by people with disabilities to digital public services, the digital economy and the workplace.
It is vital that action is taken in this field now, to ensure we keep on top of the rising problem of digital discrimination.”
In particular, the coalition is asking the main UK parties to pledge if elected to t review of anti-discrimination law to “see if it is fit for purpose in the digital age; and to see how existing laws, guidelines and standards on access to digital goods and services by disabled and older people can be better enforced across all sectors.”
In background information published alongside the petition, the coalition notes that the government has already published reasonable accessibility guidelines in its Government Service Design Manual for the Digital by Default Service Standard.
However, it warns: “We are concerned that such messages are still not strongly enough promoted or enforced across the whole of government. And outside central government, in local government and the NHS for example, the pattern of accessibility of digital services is even more patchy.
“It is also a concern that the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was set up in 2006 with a mandate to “challenge discrimination”, has undertaken very little research, issued little guidance and carried out little enforcement work in this vital area. This is a clear indicator that review of anti-discrimination law enforcement in this field is urgently needed.”
Andy Heath, a consultant on digital accessibility and One Voice council member who is running the petition on behalf of the coalition, told E-Access Bulletin this week: “Technology can serve us all, or if we let it, it can serve only the few. Accessibility of digital information in the UK is not a done deal, its a work in progress.
“I see the support of the next government it as crucial to the progress of inclusion and accessibility in the UK and making a high level manifesto statement would show a commitment to that. We need the policy vision out there in view so all can see, not buried in a dusty filing cabinet. Whether you believe competition between people, organisations and nations, is a good way to go or not, we cannot afford to waste the talents of any of our people by excluding them – for their sakes and ours.”
Heath urged all readers of E-Access Bulletin to sign the petition, Building an Inclusive Society, and promote it on social media and through other channels, as the parties enter the final stages of their manifesto-setting processes this summer.