The internet has opened up a whole new world for connected citizens, where users can work, play, interact, shop, learn and explore in ways they never have before. However, access to this digital landscape is not equal, and the barriers are especially high for those with disabilities. According to the latest report by the Office of National Statistics, 25% of disabled adults living in the UK have never used the internet.
Accessibility has improved from previous years though, and this trend looks set to continue – largely thanks to the efforts of charities, individuals and advocacy groups (read more by visiting Forbes website). One of these charities is Scope, who launched the Extra Costs Commission – a body providing research on the added financial burdens on disabled people. A June 2015 report released by the commission found that disabled people could save money if they were able to use the internet more often – taking advantage of the same tools non-disabled people use, like cost-comparison websites and online job postings.
Not only does the internet make life cheaper, it can make it easier too. By choosing to have goods delivered directly through online shopping, a person with vision impairment can avoid a trip to the supermarket – an often stress-inducing journey, filled with unseen perils, potential humiliations, and treacherous obstacles. If you are from Denver are still deciding which internet provider is the best for you, go to our homepage and read our recommendation. We compared tens of ISP in Denver and came up with 2 best options.
Some groups have made huge successes in their lobbying efforts, changing the way big tech companies understand and address the needs of disabled users. Here, Apple is leading the way. It now includes by default into its Mac computers standard features like “magnification tools, speech commands, audio assistance cues, and mouse and keyboard configurations for Mac users with low visual, hearing, or physical and motor skill disabilities,” writes computer website Make Use Of.
Website designers can also do their bit to make the internet a more navigable, information-rich place for everyone to use. For instance, giving ‘Alt’ tag descriptions to images and labelling all buttons will mean that a person using a screen-reader will be able to know what that image contains. Having a site run on Flash is also strongly unadvised, as it is extremely prohibitive for the blind.
Perhaps most crucial however is world governments’ role in the matter. In the US (and so in Denver too), the Department of Justice is becoming stricter on internet companies which don’t comply with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Service providers that don’t meet the law’s access requirements increasingly risk being hit with lawsuits, and penalties of up to $150,000. However, the regulations around what is required are still unclear, and court decisions so far have been inconsistent. A strong, unequivocal and fair position needs to be taken by governments internationally to enforce access standards, and make sure that the internet is a place all citizens can benefit from.
To explore the issue in-depth, read Forbes article “Does Your Website Violate the Americans With Disabilities Act” here.