Millions Missing Out on Digital Revolution
6 June 2013 at 9:46 am
Australians with disability are harnessing gadgets, apps and websites to improve their lives but many are potentially missing out on the digital revolution because some app developers and manufacturers are failing to accommodate their needs, according to consumer action groups.
“Given Australia’s rapid uptake of smartphones, it’s clear that mobile technologies are increasingly essential to our lives and it is even more important that these technologies are made accessible for all,” Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said.
And according to Dr Scott Hollier, a project manager with Media Access Australia who is living with a visual impairment, many are being left behind because accessibility guidelines are not being followed by web and app developers.
“Apple, Google and Microsoft have come a long way in building accessibility tools into their desktop and mobile operating systems and they also provide simple accessibility guidelines for developers.
“The solutions are there we just need people to use them.”
Dr Hollier believes catering to people with disability makes sense from both a business and ethical perspective.
“About one in five Australians have some form of permanent disability and we all want to enjoy the same things as everybody else.”
Dr Hollier, who for his PhD studied why people people with disability have problems accessing technology, said there were now free software tools such as screen reader software that are comparable to off-the-shelf professional versions costing thousands of dollars.
“People with disability aren’t waiting for the big web companies to get on board – many have installed their own third-party hacks to make popular apps more accessible, such as Facely HD, an accessible version of Facebook, and Easychirp for Twitter.
“Websites such as AppleVis provide valuable information on accessible apps. For instance, TapTapSee is an app designed to help people with visual impairments identify objects they encounter in their daily lives.
“We still have a long way to go in getting developers and ICT professionals to build websites and apps in a way that conform to the necessary guidelines,” Dr Hollier said.
“If people just incorporate that into their work processes then it takes very little extra time and effort.”
People with disability and older people represent a large proportion of the Australian population. In 2009, four million people (almost 20 per cent of the population) reported having a disability. In 2011, more than three million Australians were aged 65 or over.
A two-day conference being held on 14-15 August in Sydney as part of a joint partnership between ACCAN and Telstra will examine present solutions to these issues. M-Enabling Australasia 2013
The global M-Enabling initiative has previously been held in Washington DC, Beijing, Milan, San Francisco and Moscow.