NIST report finds cloud computing threats and opportunities for digital accessibility

The “Cloud Computing and Accessibility Considerations” draft report recently published by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) analyzes the effect of cloud technologies on systems’ accessibility at the federal level. According to the paper, the adoption of cloud solutions for government platforms may in some cases hinder the correct functioning of accessibility features such as speech recognition or Braille translation. This may ultimately impede workers with disabilities from performing their daily tasks.

Cloud computing solutions have been adopted by the US Federal government since 2011 as a mechanism to increase productivity and data availability. However, according to the report, the adoption of these technologies is difficult to balance with the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandating federal agencies to facilitate inclusive working conditions for disabled workers. Taking into consideration that cloud computing may lead to modifications in traditional systems, the adaptation for inclusive design requires agencies to invest additional resources for developing complementary software solutions to target the needs of persons with disabilities.

However, the report studies as well two significant opportunities that the cloud has enabled for inclusive design: the use of accessibility APIs and the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure. The first solution consists on the use of accessibility application programming interfaces to provide developers with specialized software for adding accessibility features to their work. The second one consists on a cloud-based set of tools and services that are made available to public and private institutions in order to recognize disabled users thus adjusting devices’ functions to their unique needs.

Additional Sources: ICT Procurement