One in every four individuals out of the world population lives with some form of disability. It becomes more than just our social responsibility to create accessibility and digital inclusion for all and tap the potentials that lie underneath. citiesabc, openbusinesscouncil, Ruh Global IMPACT and Billion Strong are collaborating to establish digital inclusion and accessibility for all.

Over the past few decades, technology has altered the way humans interact. From ordering food at a restaurant to playing online games, or participating in local and global events on the web, technology has introduced to us new standards of communication. Considered an achievement by a large demographic, some features of new technologies have limited their accessibility for disenfranchised individuals, such as people with disabilities.

Statistically speaking, more than 25% of the world’s population, that is approximately 1.7 billion people across the world, have some sort of lived experience with disabilities. About 80% of this group lives in developing nations alone. However, a more pronounced problem is that 98% of the world’s top one million websites do not offer full accessibility to people with disabilities.

Cities, nations, and companies excluding this demographic from mainstream jobs can face an impact cost of 7 percent of their GDP. It could also increase the chances of poverty for people with disabilities by fifty percent.

There is, thus, an urgent need to improve infrastructure and digital connectivity, encouraging organisations to design inclusive policies for people with disabilities. Impactful measures like professional development training, mentoring, and inclusive technology solutions, such as screen readers and responsive design, are also critical.

That is why openbusinesscouncil, the global, digital certification directory for businesses and marketplace; and citiesabc, a platform that empowers urban stakeholders to enact the digital transformation of their city and engage in its marketplace, have partnered with leading inclusion organisations: Ruh Global IMPACT & Billion Strong to facilitate a seamless digital inclusion: FOR EVERYONE.

What is digital inclusion and accessibility?

Digital inclusion and accessibility mean providing equal opportunities to access digital resources, like websites, software, and technology. This entails planning and designing these resources with a wider range of perspectives and experiences in mind.

These designs should be able to meet the needs of everyone:

• people with speech difficulties,

• vision loss or blindness,

• loss of hearing,

• mobility challenges, and

• intellectual or cognitive challenges.

This not only helps conventionally marginalised people but also the organisations and businesses to expand their reach to a wider audience.

Obstacles that exist in the digital spaces

Until now, people with disabilities have been relying on the variants of assistive technology to find access to online platforms. While these could benefit some, using the hardware components with this technology, like keyboards and mouse, was one of the hurdles for others.

Although these could be further enabled with ICT (Information and Communication Technology) mechanisms, including text, voice, gestures, and even sensory movements, it had its own share of challenges: poor digital layout and an abstract content design.

For instance, when a female who uses a wheelchair clicks on a department store to shop for a new dress, she is given several choices. But it is hard to see other associated features that help her decide what could be easy for her to drape. The extra content, however, would help all women, not just women with disabilities, make informed choices about what to buy.

“Really, I believe the big challenge is making certain that people with disabilities have access to the technologies, to those options that are out there, and that designers who create apps and systems and who design this stuff that they understand that accessibility has to be at the forefront of that design. Because it’s much better. Good design should be accessible design. So, I don’t care how pretty or neat something is, if it’s not accessible, it’s not good design. And so, once we start to approach it from that perspective that building it accessible from the beginning, I think that we will see much more access for so many other communities, not just the community of people with disabilities, and ultimately that makes it better overall for everyone.”, La Mondre Pough, CEO of Billion Strong.

An inclusive digital representation

Digital inclusion is more than just making technical upgrades in format and layout. It is also important to incorporate every aspect of the content presentation. For this, it is imperative to give thoughtful consideration to the exclusive experiences of the disabled community.

Displaying pictures of people with disabilities and posting content that gears to their concerns is a part of an inclusive digital representation. Besides building a common notion of trust and comfort amongst diverse groups of people, it also makes the disenfranchised groups visible among a common front.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide a framework for making web content more accessible for people with disabilities.

Accessibility can’t be an afterthought: It needs to be considered right from the very beginning of the product development cycle, and also during the intermittent stages.

This results in an all-inclusive product that is truly built to make people’s lives easier, while WCAG is sort of a checklist to launch a holistic product.

Accessibility makes sense

Inclusion and accessibility are not mere moral imperatives. It could also make successful business cases. By creating digital solutions for all, businesses can tap into the unharnessed working potential too.

According to a report from the American Institute of Research:-

“People with disabilities present business and industry with a twofold opportunity. First, businesses benefit from hiring people with disabilities because they provide unique abilities to enhance labour force diversity, improve productivity, and inspire innovation. Second, people with disabilities represent a large consumer market for high-quality services and products.” 

“I think that it’s time for us to value all human beings, and stop deciding that some human beings are less valuable because they’re from the wrong country, they believe in the wrong God, they don’t believe in God, they love the wrong sex- whatever it is. Let’s stop doing that because to be human being means we are multi-dimensional person, and we come in all shapes and sizes. And if people want to contribute and make the world a better place, let’s make sure that they can contribute.”, Debra Ruh, CEO of Ruh Global IMPACT.

Learn more:

About citiesabc.com

https://www.citiesabc.com/

About openbusinesscouncil.org

https://www.openbusinesscouncil.org/

About Ruh Global IMPACT

https://www.ruhglobal.com/

About Billion Strong

https://www.billion-strong.org/

About Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1

https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/