UK Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology

Written By: Peter Abrahams
Content Copyright © 2008 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: Accessibility

The Employers’ Forum on Disability (EFD) is the leading employers’ organisation in the UK focused on disability as it affects employers and service providers. It recently announced the formation of the Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology (BTAT), quoting from the briefing paper objectives.

‘The taskforce will enable CIOs from UK and global business to:

  • Communicate the business benefits for accessible and usable technology.
  • Minimise legal, reputation and efficiency risks associated with poor accessibility/usability and maximise the benefits of accessible technology.
  • Encourage IT suppliers to deliver accessible and usable products and services to business, using an integrated universal design approach.
  • Develop efficient corporate standards for barrier free processes and systems.
  • Define best practice that delivers reasonable adjustments for employees and customers.
  • Influence regulators’ standards for worldwide IT accessibility.
  • Improve the accessibility and disability competence of those responsible for IT training and solutions.

The taskforce is made up of the CIOs, or equivalent positions, from B&Q, BUPA, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), Goldman Sachs, KPMG, Lloyds TSB, Royal Mail Group, Sainsbury’s and Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). Steve Lamey, chief operating officer, HMRC, chairs the Taskforce and Susan Scott-Parker, CEO, leads for EFD. The intention is that the Taskforce will not become much bigger to ensure that it does not become unwieldy.

My initial reaction to this announcement is: “This is a heavy weight organisation with excellent objectives and should be able to exert significant influence on all the relevant stakeholders in the accessibility space. It is therefore an excellent announcement.”

My second reaction is to ask a set of questions:

  • Besides having regular meetings (about once a quarter) how is it going to operate?
  • How is it going to interface with organisations such as the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (set up by a group of vendors last year)?
  • How is it going to spread its findings, knowledge and influence to the rest of the members of EFD and the wider community?
  • Are there similar organisations in other parts of the world (BTAT is UK centric with some European credentials)? If so, how will BTAT interoperate with them?
  • A number of the initiatives will require research and the setting up of websites and similar technology. How is this going to be funded in a sustainable way?
  • Which regulators and standards bodies is it going to try and influence? The British Standards Institute (BSI) and the UK government are the local organisations that can be most easily targeted. But there are a large number of other regulators and standards bodies that need to be addressed.
  • Should the standards be just accessibility or should they include standards that could have an impact on accessibility, for example ODF and OOXML?

I am sure that all these questions will be answered over the next few months as the taskforce swings into action, maybe some of them will be answered at the next formal meeting in May.

I look forward to being able to write more about taskforce; its modus operandi, its findings, reports and the positive impact it has on accessible technology.

Whilst I am blogging about EFD I should also mention another announcement.

‘EFD’s highly popular series of Briefing Papers has been revised and updated with new case studies and the latest developments in the law.

Sponsored by Transport for London and renamed EFD Briefings, these best practice resources for employers feature up-to-date guidance and examples of how businesses recruit and retain people with disabilities.’

These include briefing papers on the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and a set of papers on employment adjustment for specific disabilities including sight problems, deaf and hard of hearing, and upper limb disorders (RSI). The full set of 18 reports is only £61.20 for non-members and therefore should be purchased by any self respecting human resources department.