Accessibility gap widens

 15 February 2006

Highlighted person Britain's eight million plus disabled sector is fast being left behind by the quickening pace of technology’s development, according to leading experts on adapting IT systems for the disabled.

Mobile phones, iPods, microwave cookers and websites are seriously failing the disabled user, especially the visually impaired.

Chris Mairs, a spokesperson for the BCS's Disability Group and a highly successful entrepreneur in developing IT business systems for the disabled, says that continuing failure to adapt both current and future IT systems to a group representing over 15 per cent of the population will have a critical impact on all of us.

Mairs says that the UK's aging population means a significant proportion of us will eventually be classified as disabled, particularly with some degree of visual impairment. This sector of society represents an annual spend of £50 billion, a figure likely to grow annually by over ten per cent. Current failure to cater for this enormous market therefore also represents a major oversight by British business.

Whilst modern technology has bought great benefits to many visually disabled people, giving them control over their lives and access to things they might otherwise be denied, advances also threaten to alienate them by making some equipment too complex to be of use.

'Voice technology has really opened up the world to the visually impaired,' says Mairs. 'We have talking newspapers, easy access to online music with speech synthesized catalogues, email reading and writing and a speech interface with GPS. But other inventions which are heavy on technology have disenfranchised the disabled. For example, microwave cookers, mobile phones, iPods and most websites.'

BCS Disability Group

Social Inclusion Section