Including both Assistive and Accessible Technology in the UK

Image source: http://cdn2.cio.co.uk/cmsdata/features/3621468/BBC_tech_disability_day2_thumb230.jpg

Image source: http://cdn2.cio.co.uk/cmsdata/features/3621468/BBC_tech_disability_day2_thumb230.jpg

CIOs at the BBC, Royal National Institute for the Blind, and Natural Resources Wales understand the importance of incorporating both assistive and accessible technologies into their work.

For example, Martin Britton, CIO at Natural Resources Wales, and Rohan Hewavisenti, Group Director of Resources at RNIB, emphasize the importance of accessible procurement.

According to Britton, “It’s a CIO’s responsibility to ensure that the ICT across the whole enterprise – both internally and externally facing – is accessible to those who use the multitude of assistance software…We make sure that accessibility impact assessments form part of every solution design review and software procurement – indeed we consider all nine protected characteristics not just disability.”

The RNIB emphasizes the need to mainstream accessibility into all organizations “such that in all that they and their staff do the subject is as integral a consideration as security, compliance or technical training,” says Neil Heslop, Managing Director of Solutions.

He says assistive technology is prevalent, but that accessibility is perhaps even more important so that “a blind or partially sighted member of staff can access the same applications, functionality and do their job just as easily as the sighted member of staff.” He emphasizes the value of all iOS and Android Devices now being accessible.

The 1995 UK Discrimination Act and 2006 Disability Discrimination Order made great strides in ensuring employers provide assistive technology where necessary, but Britton and Heslop consider mainstreamed accessibility a better focus, particularly in procurement. They say vendors often lack products with accessible and/or bilingual features. Britton encourages companies to put pressure on vendors to innovate and incorporate accessibility, while Heslop notes that accessibility is not only a legal and ethical obligation, but also a business opportunity. Heslop specifically mentions the need to follow the ISO 9241-171 and ISO/IEC 40500 standards “for software accessibility and for web delivered products, WCAG 2.0, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.”

Meanwhile, at the BBC, Tony Hall, Director-General, has committed to incorporating accessible and assistive technology in the company’s operations. The BBC has finished accessibility risk assessments for 80% of its IT systems in order to help with future procurement decisions. The BBC’s Disability Access Service and Diversity and Inclusion Manager also specifically recruit persons with disabilities to ensure that they take advantage of all available talent. The company has a public disability target in the technology department of 7.5% by 2017, 5.3% across the company, and 5% in leadership positions.

Finally, the company hopes to increase the number of women in its technology department to 30% in the same time period.

Given that 16% of adults in the UK have a disability, integrating accessibility into companies’ decisions and targets such as the BBC’s is crucial.

Source: Edward Qualtrough, CIO UK, IDG