New research carried out by the Business Disability Forum (BDF) indicates that UK businesses are still not doing enough to consider disabled users when designing new IT products, whether these are internal or customer-facing.
The report, Disability-smart approaches to engaging suppliers and partners, acknowledges that some well-known British companies are making great strides when it comes to considering the needs of differently abled end users within the IT procurement and design process, but emphasises that much more still needs to be done before equality of access is achieved.
Business not doing enough for disabled IT users?
One of the most important points of the research, which was led by BDF’s strategy and external affairs director, George Selvanera, was that only around 25% of UK businesses are choosing to review their IT supply contracts to make sure that accessibility concerns are adequately addressed. Furthermore, it was revealed that less than half of companies discuss disability issues with their suppliers other than when formal processes demand it.
BARCLAYS AND RBS PRAISED
People with limited mobility often buy mobility scooters and other accessibility products to make their lives more comfortable, but it can sometimes be forgotten that disabled people now make up a fifth of working-age people in Britain. Businesses cannot afford to ignore the needs of this large section of society, either from the point of view of employers or customer-facing enterprises.
Speaking to ComputerWeekly.com, Mr Selvanera did single out two retail banks – Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – for praise. According to Selvanera, Barclays tested a new customer-focused financial services digital interface with the help of disabled people to ensure its accessibility, whilst RBS proactively reviewed their cash machine systems to make them easier to use for blind people in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Despite these advances, however, Selvanera was keen to emphasise that technology has still not yet advanced far enough to make digital interfaces truly accessible, and that there is much more work needed: ‘The challenge I am most conscious of…is that there is a lot of legacy technology without accessibility built in, so there is also a problem of retrofitting old systems’.