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Bloor Research has set up an Accessibility Practice, with me (Peter Abrahams) at the helm, to investigate all aspects of making IT available to people with disabilities.
All businesses and organisations have a moral, legal and financial obligation to ensure that their systems are accessible to anyone who needs to use them. Even though most organisations, if asked, would agree with this statement, very few fully meet this obligation.
The reasons for failing include:
- Lack of awareness of the obligation, no one has yet asked or challenged the organisation.
- Senior management believe that the cost and effort required to conform is high and that there are other more pressing requirements.
- Senior management are not aware of the business benefits of creating a site which is accessible to people with disabilities.
- Designers, authors and developers have a partial understanding of the requirement and produce sub-optimal solutions.
- High tech interfaces such as video and audio are used without considering the impact on accessibility.
- Legacy systems have user interfaces that were designed without considering accessibility and it is very difficult to retrofit.
- User interfaces were developed using tools that cannot produce accessible interfaces or do not make it easy so to do.
- User interfaces and content changed over time and there is a lack of quality control to ensure that a system remains accessible.
The organisations that have got it right are those who have recognised the benefits of providing accessible web sites. The web is an effective way of providing services to people with disabilities. The disabled community has considerable buying power and will gravitate towards sites that are easy to use. Sites that are designed for accessibility will be easier to use and therefore more attractive to people who are not disabled but can be described as challenged, including the old, people who wear glasses, the colour blind, people with RSI or Parkinson’s, the hard of hearing, dyslexics and many people who are challenged in other ways.
The Accessibility Practice will analyse all these issues to help organisations meet their obligations and understand the opportunities created in this area. The practice will investigate:
- Business benefits
- Best Practice in design and implementation
- Integrating accessibility into the management of the development cycle
- Assistive technologies (such as screen readers)
- Tools for design, development, authoring, testing, monitoring and display
- Future directions
The results will be designed to help organisations implement accessible systems, and vendors to provide tools that do not just enable accessibility but actively promote it.
The first deliverable from the practice will be a white paper that describes the benefits, issues and challenges surrounding accessibility with an outline of the methods, processes and tools required.
This will be followed by in depth reports and conferences on specific solution areas, alongside articles covering breaking news, future directions and opinion.
At Bloor we believe we are in a unique position to bring all aspects together in one place and thereby help all stakeholders towards an accessible future.
Although Bloor Research has been commenting on this area for a considerable period, we need to understand better what are the major concerns and opportunities. So we encourage end users to contact us with the issues they would like answers to and vendors to contact us with information on the accessibility features of their products.