July 2024

Why is digital accessibility one of the IT industry’s biggest failures?

Accessibility guidelines have been in place since 1999. International standards are in place that cover the production of accessible websites. The major technology industry players provide good technology that can deliver accessible digital services via the web, mobile apps and documents. National and international organisations are in place to promote the need for improved accessibility of digital services. Numerous companies provide accessibility services. In summary there is a whole industry in place around digital accessibility, the problem is with the business applications that organisations provide. Why are they still a problem? Is this one of the IT industry’s biggest failures?

EU legislation and UK regulation

Legislation in this area will come into force across EU countries in 2025. UK regulation for the public sector has been in place since 2018 and it has made a positive improvement to the digital accessibility of government websites at all levels. The US is tightening legislation to increase the focus on accessibility within its existing laws that date back to 1990. Hopefully further legislation will raise the awareness and increase the compliance to meet digital accessibility standards, i.e. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). However, is compliance enough, will it capture the hearts and minds of organisations that are necessary to be truly inclusive?

Unconcious bias/corporate ignorance

I conclude that that organisations are either guilty of unconscious bias AKA corporate ignorance or something worse, which is a conscious bias. With the second of these two alternatives it appears that organisations are actively choosing to exclude disabled people.

Most organisations need to identify digital accessibility as a must that requires a fundamental business transformation. Throughout my 50+ year career in organisations that choose to deliver a business transformation, they demand a committed C level executive sponsor. This is the approach taken by the 500+ companies within the Valuable 500 partnership.


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About the author

Chris Winter FIET FBCS CITP is an Ambassador for the Digital Poverty Alliance, an evangelist for digital accessibility and a former IBM Fellow, now retired.

About the Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA). The DPA defines Digital Poverty with five key determinants: the affordability of devices and connectivity, accessibility (for the disabled), skills, motivation and a lack of ongoing support. With the breadth of digital poverty being so broad. Its objective is to eradicate digital poverty in the UK by 2030.