Awareness is a lifetime experience
Having concluded that the lack of awareness by C level executives and board members is the major root cause of the unacceptable accessibility of the vast majority of websites and apps deployed on smart devices, I still believe that improved ESG governance [environmental, social and governance, represent the three main topic areas that companies are expected to report in] will provide a step change to digital accessibility. It remains my ‘silver bullet’ but why are organisations and the people that lead them so unaware?
It is fair to assume that the 24% of the UK’s registered disabled people are keenly aware of the lack of accessibility challenges that face them every day. However, the number of people who are unaware of these challenges is, to me at least, a known unknown. I presume that it is most of the 76% of the UK’s population that are not disabled.
Many disabled people, in the UK, attend special schools such as those for the blind, the deaf, mental disabilities, etc. These special schools are essential in the way that they teach generally and, in some cases, they teach how to use the specialised assistive technologies to overcome specific disabilities.
Consequential lack of awareness
I believe that there is a consequential lack of awareness for pupils and students who attend normal schools where they have no day-to-day contact with those disabled children. It is highly probable that this contributes to the unconscious bias that results within organisations. People simply don’t know what they don’t know.
From my own personal experience, I had very limited exposure to disabled children throughout my school life. I do not have sufficient data to prove this hypothesis; please contact me if you can contribute any data, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In summary, I maintain that ESG has the potential to make significant improvements to the lot of disabled people in the UK and globally. In the longer term I believe that changes to formal teaching and lived experience at school age and through higher education will lead to greater awareness. This increased awareness and lived experience should result in improved digital accessibility.
My previous blog entries are:
- The IT Industry has been failing disabled people since the 1990s. https://archivesit.org.uk/blog/the-it-industry-must-do-more-for-disabled-people/
- The IT Industry has standards and guidelines dating back a quarter of a century. https://archivesit.org.uk/blog/the-it-industry-must-do-more-for-disabled-people-part-two/
- There are at least 14.6 million disabled people in the UK. https://archivesit.org.uk/blog/the-it-industry-must-do-more-for-disabled-people-part-3/
- This is not an engineering issue, is now the time for increased legislation and regulation? https://archivesit.org.uk/blog/the-it-industry-must-do-more-for-disabled-people-part-4/
- The Green Agenda is having a negative impact on the accessibility of websites. https://archivesit.org.uk/blog/the-it-industry-must-do-more-for-disabled-people-part-5/
- Is Environmental. Social and Governance (ESG) the potential silver bullet that I have been searching for to make a step change to the accessibility of digital services. https://archivesit.org.uk/blog/the-it-industry-must-do-more-for-disabled-people-part-six/
- A summary of the story so far, as told in parts 6 – 7. https://archivesit.org.uk/blog/the-it-industry-must-do-more-for-disabled-people-part-seven/
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.
Further reading – AIT Forum on the Histories of the Internet
Chris took part in AIT’s recent Internet Forum on 9 January 2024 in the panel Societal Implications, which you can read here: Panel 5 – Societal Implications.