The concept of digital accessibility simply as a means of catering for disabled users is out-of-date: in the modern world, digital inclusion must be understood as the need to serve everybody, whatever their access method or device, a leading accessibility specialist has said.
Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at technology access charity AbilityNet, told delegates at the recent national digital conference in London, ND13, that providers of digital content and services already need to adapt to new devices and access methods. With more people than ever accessing websites through mobile and other devices, we are in a situation where “everybody is disabled from time-to-time”, Christopherson said.
“People are accessing your content and your services while they’re on the go – from a small screen which might be more difficult to see, or while they’re driving they might need to have things spoken back to them and need to control things by voice,” he said.
“This idea of accessibility being for disabled people, I would argue, is now anachronistic”, he said. “Digital inclusion is… by far a preferred statement, because it talks about including everybody, whereas traditionally, accessibility has been this bolt-on activity to help disabled people, with additional budget, additional skills required.”
For people with disabilities, new technologies are also opening up new horizons, Christopherson said. Emerging technologies such as: Google Glass, a head-mountable computer that responds to voice commands; software that detects human facial expressions; and the ‘Talking Goggles’ app, which photographs an object and then tells the user what the object is, are all opening up new frontiers of communication.