Operation Accessibility: Making BBC services inclusive to all

Posted on: May 21, 2015 by Neil Milliken

In my last post , I discussed Atos’ commitment to digital inclusion. As part of this, we’ve focused our work on improving access to internal services for all 90,000 employees, but we’re also dedicated to helping our customers improve accessibility within their own organisations.

There are some forward-thinking organisations that are leading the field in making services accessible to all, one of which is the BBC. Here, I interview Paul Bepey, the BBC’s Access Technology Manager about the work his team is doing, and our plans for a joint BBC & Atos event for the upcoming Global Accessibility Awareness Day.


1. Could you give us an overview of your role at the BBC?

As the BBC’s Access Technology Manager, it is my responsibility to ensure every staff member has access to the services they need to do their job. This covers everything from assessing a new joiner’s requirement for assisted technology to working with the development team to ensure the solutions we’re deploying meet each person’s needs. A second team takes responsibility for ensuring all external services are accessible to the public.

2. Why is accessibility such a close cause to the BBC’s heart?

The BBC is a publically-funded organisation, and so we have a responsibility to represent every individual that makes up our vastly diverse audience. As a result, we are committed to making our services inclusive to all. From a technology perspective, this means making certain that every individual who comes into the organisation can work with the applications and services they need.

3. Can you give me some examples of the work you’ve done to improve digital inclusion?

We’ve integrated Assistive technology (AT) tools into our systems, such as JAWS (Job Access with Speech) – a screen reader application for the visually-impaired – and Dragon – a speech recognition application that turns talk into text. We work on an app-by-app basis, closely aligning ourselves with the development team to re-engineer products and adapt them to work in ways that suit individual requirements. Atos helps us to test and deploy these AT tools and also provides support for some BBC users.

4. What needs to be done to make digital services accessible to all?

From a culture perspective, digital inclusion needs to be embedded from day one. There needs to be more education about why accessibility is so important to help shift the mind set of developers who are coding these applications and software programmes, so that digital inclusion isn’t just an afterthought.Cost is also a huge barrier for those looking to invest in assistive technologies. If you come into a place of work and are assessed for assisted technology requirements, your employer will usually make a contribution to the cost of the solution, but if you’re unemployed, the process becomes more difficult. For instance, for a visually impaired individual, trying to update your CV and apply for a job is extremely tough without access to an expensive screen reader programme so the costs really need to be addressed.

5. How will the BBC be involved in Global Accessibility Awareness Day on the 21st May?

Events like Global Accessibility Awareness Day are extremely important as they open up people’s eyes to the challenges that their colleagues and peers may face every day in being digitally excluded. At our event, held at Atos’ London Business Technology Innovation Centre, we have speakers from companies, such as Nuance and Microsoft, who are leading the way in accessibility, to see how we can further collaborate and raise visibility of the cause, promoting some of the good work that’s already being done in this field.

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About Neil Milliken
Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion and member of the Scientific Community
Neil Milliken is VP - Global Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusionat Atos, member of the Atos Scientific Community & Atos Distinguished Expert. Neil is a leading strategist and community builder with over two decades of experience within the Accessibility and Assistive Technology fields and served as invited expert for the W3C Cognitive Accessibility Taskforce Neil is a member of the Board of Directors for World Institute on Disability, Non Exec Chair of the Board at Genius Within, member of the advisory board of the Valuable500 & Served as Chair of the Diversity Board for Institute of Coding. He is co-founder of AXSChat Europe’s largest twitter chat with a focus on Accessibility & Inclusion. Neil is dyslexic and has ADHD, he advocates for people with neurodivergent conditions as well as other disabilities and additional needs.

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