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Advancing recognition of the positive impact of accessibility and digital inclusion on society

This blog series features personal stories shared by the EPSRC-funded INPACT (Inclusive Practices in Assisting Collaborative Technologies) panelists, who will shed light on the challenges of disability inclusion and showcase the transformative power of accessible AT. By sharing their experiences, the panelists emphasize the crucial role of co-design in ensuring successful technology adoption for everyone.

Accessibility is a beautiful angle to inclusion

Accessibility is a beautiful angle to inclusion, and thinking about it as a one-off would not be sufficient for the game-changing advances that we could make through it in the global disability sphere and for the much-needed strengthening of disability awareness within societies and communities. Engaging with accessibility entirely is placing and prioritising the needs and lives of disabled people right at the centre of solutions being found and created. Accessibility should not be seen as a consultation, which is often the mistake being made by sectors of many economies (both within industrialised and unindustrialised countries).

For example, in the social and working cultures of any economy, if accessibility is embedded with delight, a keen mind for interest and positivity, such is a path to stop the habit of seeing it as something which must be acted upon, but instead to start seeing it as an in-built fabric of responsibilities across all practices, essential for improving equality, personal growth avenues and wellbeing of People with Disabilities. Organizations not making their websites, products, and services accessible hampers digital inclusivity by creating barriers that impact technological benefits to disabled people, such as greater independence and more remarkable ability to gather information.

It is evident across societies how accessible solutions from technology have transformed daily life for many people with disabilities and continue to do so through innovative offerings

It is evident across societies how accessible solutions from technology have transformed daily life for many people with disabilities and continue to do so through innovative offerings. Imagine someone who can only communicate via writing; well, in the 90s, speech recognition was propelled forward because of the PC, with faster processors enabling software products such as Dragon Dictate to be widely used. In the mid-1990s, we started to see the springing up of the internet’s use., which presented new accessibility challenges and opportunities. For those with visual impairment, the creation and launch of screen-reading and assistive software solutions had a role to play in a digital first society, fostering the inclusive use of such a virtual world with advantages. Such a world has also come with the realisation of accessibility challenges that are creating opportunities for website accessibility consultants and user-experience professionals and deploying the talent and skills of members of the disability world inclusively.

I remember a couple of years ago when providing some web testing accessibility consultancy for the New Wolsey theatre’s Ramps on the Moon website, as well as having joy doing something worthwhile with appropriate insights and with my available tools as a visually impaired person, it was clear to see that the performing arts Company mentioned, really wanted to deploy my feedback into bettering the accessibility of their organisation's virtual presence. The desire to be more web inclusive was visible in their communication with me; they were not engaging on accessibility without hunger or passion for improvement, and that’s how the attitude should be. A robust valuation of the detailed investigation carried out was clearly perceived in their engagement with me. They were keen to better understand any ‘bumps in the road’ that I may encounter on their site as a Jaws For Windows screen reader user. The Ramps on The Moon website,has clearly been given a meaningful and accessible makeover, strengthening the organisation’s already inclusive web design qualities