Why accessibility matters?

Why accessibility matters?

Will Awad is the director of Digital Accessibility at Newgen KnowledgeWorks and Equal Access

I work with visually impaired individuals in different companies and I have recently met JC who is visually impaired, and currently doing his master in international law. He is aiming to become a solicitor one day. I asked JC what are the challenges he is facing currently in his master. Here is his response:

“It is important that all materials are accessible to me. This is for the following reasons:

a) this will put me on an equal footing with my sighted peers and

b) it also gives me a greater sense of achievement knowing that I have been able to accomplish something even though there are certain limitations due to disability” JC

Disability is widespread in varying degrees

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that over a billion people worldwide have disabilities - equal to 15% of the world population - of which 253 million people suffer from various degrees of vision impairment. Providing them access to the resources available on the web will help many of them achieve a greater degree of independence in their daily lives. This is possible today, given the developments in technology in recent years. The scope for information exchange also improves when people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive disabilities are provided with the means to access the vast resources available on the internet.

In the current and rapidly advancing digital world the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft and others are eliminating barriers to access for all users, especially people with disabilities. This has become an essential part of their technology and development. Publishers and businesses are recognizing that accessibility is not just good for people with disabilities, but good for business too. It gives them the opportunity to tap into markets not catered for at the beginning of the digital revolution.

Recap: Why is Digital Accessibility important?

1. It is a social and moral imperative that everyone with a visual disability should have the same equal right to access digital content as a sighted person

2. It is a great business opportunity for publishers as their products (backlists included) will reach those individuals who were left behind by the digital revolution

3. There is a legal argument that everyone should have the same rights to information access

4. Being recognised as an advocate for accessibility positively endorses your brand, and gives you a competitive advantage

Everyone can benefit from accessible content:

Captions for video presentations not only help persons who are deaf or have hearing impairments they also help people who don't speak English to learn the language. Technology can unlock a new vista of independence for millions of people with disabilities, which in turn unfurls many business opportunities. Web accessibility is about technical standards, web architecture and design. The accessibility of websites covers much more than just access to the disabled. It's about giving people unhindered access to a website from various devices, such as mobile phones and tablets.

It is, of course, cost restraints on the publisher to convert their backlist title to accessible format, the cost associated with it might be high, compared to waiting for the new edition of the book and make that one accessible. However, we can see from the recent litigation in the USA that making content accessible is smaller compared to a risk of a lawsuit.

Digital accessibility means we can share our knowledge with more people. At a time when technology is more important than ever, taking steps to make our online presence more accessible is an essential and basic human right.

Will Awad is the director of Digital Accessibility at Newgen KnowledgeWorks and Equal Access. An expert in accessibility, W3C, WCAG and section 508 of American with Disability Act (ADA) with strong entrepreneurship skills, and a Master’s Degree in International Law.

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