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Outdated ‘Legacy’ Systems Hindering Accessibility

A lack of accessibility in old ICT systems and lack of budget are the two main barriers preventing organisations from making their internal and external ICT systems more accessible for people with disabilities, according to the results of the new survey.

These factors were each cited by 40% of respondents as ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’ barriers to implementation of accessibility in a survey carried out by Bloor Research in conjunction with E-Access Bulletin’s publisher Headstar and Ability Magazine. The finding suggests that providing tools for improving the accessibility of these ‘legacy’ systems could be an interesting business opportunity, say the survey’s creators. Less than a quarter of respondents quoted lack of understanding of accessibility issues as a barrier to progress.

The survey, which questioned organisations from both the public and private sector, investigated the current and planned status of organisations’ ICT systems and identified the drivers for accessibility; barriers to progress; and what needs to be done to remove these barriers.

Other findings included that “meeting legal requirements” and “enhancing corporate social responsibility” were the two main drivers behind ICT accessibility. The survey also revealed that, in general, the public sector is more committed to ICT accessibility than the private sector (as noted in E-Access Bulletin’s sister publication, E-Government Bulletin:
http://www.headstar.com/egblive/?p=226 ).

Comments

  1. Mark Magennis | July 31st, 2009 | 10:06 am

    Comments:

    This is very welcome. Research like this tells us where we need to prioritise our efforts in getting accessibility adopted by providers of digital products and services. I’m looking forward to reading the full report. I’d like to see what’s meant by ‘main drivers’. I assume this means the considerations that currently contribute most, e.g. “enhancing corporate social responsibility”, rather than those that have the potential to contribute most (e.g. the existence of compelling data on the business case).

    My experience tells me that corporate social responsibility and legal requirements have relatively little effect, particularly in the private sector, but increasingly also in the public sector where the economic situation is making return on investment more of a driver. The corporate social responsibility people don’t seem to have much scope for influencing design and production, beyond doing a bit of
    ‘exemplar’ work on a limited part of the product or product range. This more or less amounts to tokenism though. And legal requirements are all well and good but these are often weak. For example in Ireland the Disability Act 2005 gives almost no right of redress for disabled people faced with non-complying public services. And where are the case studies that demonstrate the penalties of failing to meet legal requirements? In your other recent article describing this research you mention the Target lawsuit in the U.S. There’s also the Sydney Olympics, but that was years ago. Where are the others? And where are the cases relevant to UK and Ireland, or relevant to digital products and services other than websites, such as public terminals, Digital TV equipment and services, PC software or mobile phones?

    I think the business case is the big one here and the one we need to put more effort into. The ‘lack of budget’ that you site as being one of the two main barriers really means a lack of allocated budget. Budgets get allocated according to return on investment and the business case is what proves the potential return on investment. I’ve just written a very similar article to this one on the CFIT website, concerning the findings of similar recent research by Ofcom on the barriers and drivers for accessibility in broadcasting, telecommunications and online products and services. That research shows that one of the main barriers reported by companies is the lack of available research stating the business case. I think that many of us in the accessibility community are already sold on the business
    case but most of our arguments are soft and qualitative:
    “accessibility maximises the customer base”, “accessibility improves the general user experience”. But without some hard data to prove these assertions and show that they lead to increased return on investment, those arguments aren’t going to convince anyone. Okay, we have the Legal & General case study and that’s very good, but it’s only one and it’s only about a financial service website. It doesn’t necessarily translate to other products and services or other industries. We desperately need more well-researched business case studies with hard data.

    It’s interesting to observe that not only are companies not finding sufficient research on the business case, but they’re not doing it themselves either. Why is that? It’s pretty normal to do business case research in the form of market analyses whenever a good-looking market opportunity is identified. Perhaps that’s what we need to persuade
    them of – that accessibility presents a decent possible market opportunity, attractive enough to warrant them doing some research into the business case. If they then do that research then we’ve filled in that missing piece. If they make the findings public then we have another case study and the whole thing gathers more momentum. Of course, it’s possible that a company may do the research and discover
    that there is not a sufficient return on investment for them, so our argument will have to fall back to the old unreliables. But the facts are: (1) the business case is probably the biggest driver of all for most organisations, (2) we think there may be a good business case for accessibility for many types of digital products and services, (3) the research isn’t there yet, and (4) the people best able to do this research (and pay for it) are the businesses themselves. Perhaps it’s time for the accessibility community to put some efforts into persuading them to do just that?

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