Inclusive IT Strategy is more than Accessibility and Assistive Tech


Posted on: August 31, 2012 by Neil Milliken

It’s good Business!

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are about to start and the excitement, expectation and demand for tickets have never been higher.

Today Paralympians such as Oscar Pistorius are as recognizable as their able-bodied counterparts, but this hasn’t always been so. The first disability rights legislation in the UK, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, was enacted as recently as the 1970's, but since then it and subsequent legislation has helped to enhance the lives of millions and millions of people throughout the world.

Why an Inclusive IT Strategy?

I like to use the term Inclusive User Experience (IUX) to describe the combined disciplines of Accessibility and Usability. Contrary to popular belief you can deliver beautiful, usable and accessible products cost effectively if you plan for IUX from inception. Apple proved this by making the iPhone the most accessible mobile phone in the world without compromising the user experience or profitability.

The legislation gives equality of access for everyone regardless of disability to jobs, products, services, and information. But as well as being a legal obligation, it is the right thing to do. People with disabilities have long been our customers and colleagues and add significantly to our overall productivity and efficiency.

There are other benefits too.

It is a marketable service offering that customers want and Usability and Accessibility can also improve overall productivity and ROI.

Up 1 billion people are affected by disability according to the world Health Organisation as a consequence if you deliver inaccessible products and services you are reducing your potential market considerably. When you consider that we have an aging population and that accessibility helps this segment of the population too, the argument for IUX is compelling.

Not only that, but Web Accessibility best practice helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Well designed websites with structured code, meaningful headings, content and links all help improve SEO and are key requirements for accessibility on the Web – they also make the web a better place for everyone It is a win-win!

Embed Accessibility In The Atos Culture

As with Corporate Responsibility, Enterprises need to embrace and embed Accessibility in their culture as it supports a business technology strategy by:

- Encouraging diversity - Enabling talented people to work - Making products and services easier to use - Improving productivity - Ensuring legal obligations are met

Getting Accessibility Right Isn’t Rocket Science! Consider accessibility at the beginning of any new initiative and work to Accessible Procurement Guidelines. Plan to make products accessible from the outset and test those products against Accessibility checklists and with users. Consult with IUX subject matter experts for advice and how to’s.

Atos has done considerable work on its external websites to make them accessible ahead of the Olympics and Paralympics and is also committed to making IT work with Assistive Technologies such as:

- Screen readers - Magnifiers - Speech Recognition etc

IUX (Accessibility and Usability) is all pervasive.

Accessibility is not just about ramps and building access it is about making information, products and services available to all it touches on most areas of our business, even areas not immediately obvious like servers:

For example a service running on the server has an interface to manage it – legislation requires that all user interfaces are accessible and also any documentation such as instruction manuals training materials be accessible it goes without saying that we should also make them perceivable and easy to follow.

There is no room for complacency. Companies need to define policies and governance at a corporate-wide level to ensure best practice and deliver value. The poor implementation makes for poor products and can damage customer relationships. One of the key drivers for the adoption of Bring Your Own Device is because the Enterprise IT market has failed to deliver as good an experience for users as consumer products – often consumer products are also more accessible than their enterprise counterparts.

As we go through a period of rapid change there is an opportunity to embrace the benefits of IUX to build and implement great products and solutions that can be used by all.

More information in guide "Growing your customer base to include disabled people"

This guide has been developed in partnership with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, the Employers’ Forum on Disability, the Office for Disability Issues (Department for Work and Pensions) and disabled people, with support from Lloyds Banking Group and Microlink.

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About Neil Milliken

Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion and member of the Scientific Community
With over a decade of experience in the assistive technology industry, Neil is the subject matter expert on Accessibility and Assistive Technology for Atos, delivering consultancy, expertise and supporting bid and delivery teams across customer accounts and internally. Neil is the Atos representative on the Business Taskforce For Assistive Technology which has members across industry and government. He also sits on various advisory bodies including the e-accessibility forum for the UK Department for Culture Media and Sport. Previously Neil ran the operations for one of the world’s leading Assistive Technology suppliers where he was instrumental in the creation of industry standards and Supplier SLAs for the Disabled Student Allowance. He was also a director of a Joint venture company that developed an award winning Mobile app for dyslexia. He has a passion for his subject matter and loves mobiles, technology and music in no particular order.

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