In September 2012 AbilityNet commissioned Kevin Carey, a leading contributor to thinking about digital accessibility, to produce a policy paper to review citizen/consumer access to digital information in the public domain. In November 2012, in response to Kevin's paper, AbilityNet produced Mind the Digital Gap, a proposal for a new strategy to ensure digital inclusion, which was launched at a Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons on Wednesday 21 November 2012.
Kevin's report and AbilityNet's strategy are available for download from the AbilityNet site www.abilitynet.org.uk/mindthegap
AbilityNet believes there is an urgent need to address the growing gap between what technology enables some of us to do and the barriers that many people face when trying to complete the same digital tasks. We also need to recognise the significance of this gap in both social and economic terms.
For too long the debate about accessibility has focused on issues that are specific to people with disabilities. Pursuing legal action to ensure that every website includes alt-tags for people who use a screen reader would be a pointless exercise, when there is a much more important strategic issue that needs urgent attention.
Business, Government and the Third Sector are driving us to serve ourselves more and more, creating increasingly complex systems for us to use on websites, phones, apps, self-service terminals and now our televisions. As we move towards convergence across digital platforms we need to ensure our approach to inclusivity moves away from device and content and towards user interaction.
As the variety of high end digital technology available to us explodes, a capability gap is growing and affecting millions of people. The challenges of filling this gap are made more complex because we have an ageing population. We must act to close the gap between the benefits that technology offers and people's capabilities to use it.
Firstly we must recognise that the gap exists. Then we can work together to agree what we can do to address it.
In particular, AbilityNet calls on business, Government and the Third Sector to:
- Design and deliver inclusive and usable services and to achieve this by using task-oriented, user-focused testing at every stage of the design process, rather than rely on post-hoc accessibility testing
- Work with technology companies to ensure that they include consistent use of core inclusion strategies, technologies and practices in all their technologies and systems
- Support the creation of a trusted support service to help the disabled and older people make effective use of digital technologies
- Change how we incentivise digital inclusion through the use of taxation to drive uptake as well as improving take up of compliance auditing to demonstrate that relevant standards are being achieved
- Ensure that we have a learning environment for all IT and design professionals that embeds inclusion throughout all roles, including the national curriculum
- Actively encourage advocates in Business, Government, The Third Sector and concerned users to come together in a relevant forum, in particular OneVoice, so that they can work together in a coordinated way to make technology accessible and inclusive.