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125,000 people are about to enter the digital world – but will accessibility glitches mean they make a swift exit or are developer attitudes really going to change?..

May 19, 2015

News: a national charity has recently launched a major programme to help get 125,000 blind and partially sighted people online.

This is big, it amounts to a third of every blind and partially sighted person in the UK and well over the 80,000 of working age. How many will successfully dump traditional methods of accessing information (large print, braille, audio) and become full digital citizens remains to be seen.

Could the bottom be about to drop out of the market for alternative formats? I’m not sure. I wonder how big the market is anyway or whether the UK association for accessible formats has a view on this.

What I am sure is this huge new initiative is unlikely to get local authorities thinking seriously about the need to digitally rehab b/ps people, because being able to use a white cane is increasingly less important than being able to function digitally. Same goes for the Ap and website developer communities, i wonder if it’ll get them thinking and designing inclusively?

Let’s face it, who is putting big bucks in teaching and training ap and web developers to design inclusive? I don’t see anyone. These millions of pounds to fund work to get so many people with sight impairments online could actually just be sending over a hundred thousand people into a digital world of partly or completely inaccessible aps and websites, to drive them mad with frustration. On the bright side, driving up demand for inclusive design could actually increase the developer communities awareness of accessibility. I hope it’s the latter.

What we do know from practical example is the potential for accessibility has changed a whole lot in the last 5 years. Google and Apple have put the power to instantly enlarge screen text or to read it aloud in the hands of blind and partially sighted people everywhere, well those with a modest monthly budget to spend, thanks to the ever improving generations of smartphones and tablets that fill pockets and litter sofas worldwide.

But turning to assess the other side of the coin, the potential the ap and web developer communities are generating, we can’t be so sure the potential is carried through. I think many many people will get stuck somewhere on the steep climbs of the learning curve, hit overhanging aps and mobile sites which won’t enlarge or read out loud, then slide back down. I only hope traditional alternative formats will still be there for them at the bottom…

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