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Senior adjusting the glasses to see the computer

Cast a vote for visual impairment computer accessibility

  • 09 December 2019
  • Social Responsibility UX Research and Design

In the run up to the December 2019 UK election, Bethany Dawson of the Independent newspaper wrote a breakdown of how often disabilities are mentioned in the political parties manifestos.

One of the first things that stood out was that very few parties had provided manifestos in accessible formats until part-way through their campaigns. The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party were the only parties to have published easy-read manifestos online on launch day, alongside their full printed document. Policies aside, a sizable proportion of the electorate had been denied their full democratic rights.

With accessibility and inclusivity being such a hot political topic, it’s troubling that the two largest parties appear to be paying only lip service to these policies. It seems rather shortsighted in terms of the voting populace. Not providing inclusive formats excludes a large number of potential voters and could have a short and long term effect on their electoral support.

They must work for everyone if they want to fully cater to their constituents. Ensuring that every eligible voter is informed enough to make a decision would be a start.

Bethany Dawson

Not just the politicians

The same can be said about the digital industry. Accessibility is a vital building block of websites. However, it’s under utilised despite being able to make a vast difference to users who depend on good accessibility practices. 

Here’s some food for thought:

  • The percentage of people in the UK identifying as having a disability: 18%.
  • The combined spending power of the UK disabled population and their households: £249bn.
  • The percentage of disabled people who have rejected a business or service because they thought it was inaccessible: 75%.
  • The estimated loss to UK business every month due to them being inaccessible to disabled customers: £2bn.
  • The estimated loss of productivity due to poor mental health in the workplace: £15.1bn.

Those stats really do speak for themselves. Thinking about visual impairment computer accessibility brings benefits to your business. And that includes both offline and online experiences.

The social model

Rather than the typical medical model where the focus is on the challenges faced by the person involved, I believe we should all adopt the social model.

This model was created by disabled people for disabled people. Instead of focusing on the disabled person as the problem (disabilities are ‘impairments’) it turns things around. The challenge is the experiences that people with impairments face. Whether it’s the inability to join in a conference call or enter a shop, the problem lies with those that provide the service. 

In short, attitudes are as big a barrier as stairs for many people.

The main takeaway is that thinking about the needs of disabled people shouldn’t be an added extra but rooted in everything we do – whether it’s in your CMS build or your voting decisions. Businesses should apply the social model to employees, products and services. This means they can hire the best people and sell to a wider audience. After all, there’s nearly £250bn up for grabs in the UK.

We believe that designing with empathy addresses not just the needs of users with impairments but also a wider range of inclusivity. How can can assist you in reaching a wider audience?

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