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As someone who is passionate about technology, I’m worried that not enough is being done to make the everyday digital devices and services we take for granted accessible to all. It is increasingly impossible to live and participate in society without access to them, yet all the innovation – and a surprisingly great deal of public facilities – are built with a mainstream audience in mind. 

Having a disability now places me in the largest minority group in the world. The longer the digital inequality gap is allowed to grow, the more polarised people with accessibility requirements will become within society. If it is widely accepted that technology has the power to transform lives, why not include those of us where it has even greater potential?  

At accessibility charity AbilityNet, we regularly check technology to assess whether it meets requirements. Even surfing the web is still fraught with difficulties.

One of the big ways we are highlighting and motivating the ‘technology for good’ movement is through our Technology4Good Awards. These awards, with support from BT, celebrate the hard work of businesses and individuals who use computers and the internet to make the world a better place. From corporates to grass roots initiatives, the awards highlight the inventive ways new technology can resolve old problems. The challenge and opportunity we have is much more than issues faced when surfing online and the awards highlight what can be possible. 


It might surprise you that 85% of websites and 80% of digital devices still do not have accessibility features built in. Based on this, it's hard to imagine technologists consider accessibility as anything more than an afterthought.


Let me give you an example. Previously, if I or any other blind or visually impaired person needed to withdraw money from a cashpoint, my only option (where there isn’t a "talking ATM", of which there are very few) is to find a bank branch – a bit of a challenge if you can’t see. Or, I could ask a stranger for help which would involve giving them my PIN and trusting that they won’t either take out as much as they want and run off with my cash, the card, and the PIN, or take out more than I asked for, give me back what I need, and leave me none the wiser until I get my next statement. Quite the dilemma, and all just to withdraw some money!

Until last year there were only 70 "talking ATMs" – accessible for blind people – out of 64,000 in the UK. Barclays won the Technology4Good Accessibility Award last year, recognising the start they had made to help people like me. The powerful thing is that other banks are now following suit.  

Our research recently found that 44% of British people want a public commitment on accessibility from all organisations with a digital interface. Businesses should think about accessibility as more than a siloed, corporate social responsibility tick box exercise. The "purple pound" is growing and there is an economic benefit to ensuring product and service tech development factors in general usability.

Inventors can submit for ideas Technology4Good Awards here. Entries close 6 May 2016 at 5pm.

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Robin Christopherson at AbilityNet

About the Author

Robin is a founding member of AbilityNet, leading experts in accessibility consultancy. Despite being blind Robin uses technology very effectively and has first-hand appreciation of the importance of good web and mobile design. Robin came runner-up ‘UK Digital Leader Public Figure of the Year 2015’ in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards– with AbilityNet winning first in its category of Digital Leading Charity.

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