“The future is already here and businesses must embrace technology so that changes include rather than exclude.” Employers heard this message last April at an event hosted by Business Disability Forum (https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk) in London, England.
“Companies are often held back by a perception that recruiting people with disabilities is too difficult and costly,” says Jill Miller, in a special report in the Financial Times. Jill Miller is the Diversity and inclusion adviser at the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. “However, a lot of the ‘reasonable adjustments’ are low-cost and relatively easy to implement.”
In 2015 North American travelers with disabilities spent $17.3 billion on travel, significantly more than $13.6 billion in 2002. At the same time, complaints about airlines made by passengers with disabilities have doubled to more than 30,000 per year. Amadeus, a travel industry technology company, released a report on barriers to accessibility across stages of the passenger journey that may hold some answers as to why.
In South Korea, consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung is looking at ways that technology, including artificial intelligence, can help people with disabilities. Samsung says its developers are “listening closely to the feedback of those with disabilities, and developing tests so they can directly experience the inconveniences themselves.” Samsung says it is developing a number of technologies with an eye to ensuring accessibility for anyone and everyone, that have the potential to dramatically help those with disabilities, the elderly, and many others.
Skype has several improvements to its accessibility on the way, as part of Microsoft’s mission to “make technology more accessible and empower people to achieve more.” According to an article on Microsoft’s news site ON-MSFT, the Skype development team has been using user feedback and comments to address “accessibility issues.”
Video game developers are taking changes to accessibility rules into consideration. At the spring 2018 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, game developers from Owlchemy gave a presentation called “Accessibility in VR: How It Can Be Better.” The developers shared their own research on the subject gathered from a total of 82 virtual reality games. For each of those games, they attempted to play both sitting and standing, examined the availability of options and what they offered, gauged the reliance on audio, and recorded how much bending or reaching was required to play.
On The Chronicle of Higher Education, Assistant Director of Educational Technology at Yale University Michelle Morgan asks education professionals to consider the historical bias toward printed text, and to look for opportunities to consider alternative methods of delivering course materials. This will be of benefit not just for the students who need it, but all students, because in doing so professors and teachers can flesh out the learning experience.
It’s time for “greater representation for diversity within the emoji universe,” says Apple. The tech giant recently proposed a new line of emoji to the Unicode Consortium. Unicode is one of the computing industry’s standards for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text. Working with organizations like American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the National Association of the Deaf, Apple proposed a total of 13 new emoji, for a total of 45 when including variants for gender and skin tone.
Many workplaces are ill-equipped to provide access for individuals with both physical and mental disabilities,” says this article from CIOReview.com, but now that technology is becoming central to almost every industry, it is easier than ever before for employers to ensure that the technologies they purchase have accessibility features that cater to all employees.
The Canadian government is looking to make digital technology truly accessible. The Accessible Technology Program is a co-funding initiative to encourage the development of new assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies. Private sector firms, not-for-profits and research institutions can apply for funding.
Digital technologies now touch all aspects of daily life, but not everyone is able to access these technologies. Now a digital hub for technology designers has been launched, to address the challenges of over one billion people facing disability, literacy, digital literacy or aging related barriers to using technology.
Toronto masters student Maayan Ziv wonders every day of her life whether she’ll be able to get where she needs to go that day. Just about everything is online, she explains in this video, but until now, accessibility was a roll of the dice. Getting ready to go out on a Friday night, the twenty-five year old says she could find out how much the beer was going to be that night, and the specials, the ratings and reviews, “but not whether a place is accessible.” Maayan uses a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. “I have to ask this every day. This is a problem in my life. There are millions of people who can benefit,” she says. “I have to do this.”
UX or User Experience is the process of designing digital products with a deep understanding of users and their abilities and needs. This short video from UX Mastery is an introduction to accessibility for creators of digital experiences. This video asks developers to think harder about the end user, because everyone is different. “How we move, think, hear and see can vary greatly. Don’t cut someone out just because you aren’t prepared for the way they may react to your creation. And most of all, make it easy. This is what being inclusive is about.”
The Evenbreak Best Practice Portal is a new tool designed to help employers and their employees create inclusive workplaces. The portal covers a variety of subjects such as how to interview a candidate and bring on board new employees with a disability. The advice comes in the form of videos, from leaders who have already pioneered a way through the minefield of barriers and red tape, so employers and their staff do not have to start from scratch and can adapt the advice to their own situation.