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Pharma will solve inclusive digital because it costs less to fix people than to fix digital

July 13, 2015

I’ve posted on this idea before but something has pinged me into posting on it again: my best guess view on this is that eyes are going to get fixed before inaccessibility design for three main reasons:

1. Average: in terms of eyesight “a company can design their digital services or products to fit an average” sort of user but by definition any sort of eyesight impairment means you aren’t average and will have one or more requirements which cannot be built in. Universal design is the accessibility industries pipe dream because no single design can flex to everyone’s variable needs, but they can make money out of the possibility! However, medical industries are coming at it the other way, they are developing treatments that attempt to return those non-average functioning parts of our bodies back to average.

2. Profits: overall I’m more convinced profits can be made by the pharmaceutical companies in creating sellable treatments, funded by tax payers, that preserve or repair eyesight, than the ability of digital companies to gain sufficient profits from new disabled customers to offset the cost of inclusive design.

3. Hearts and minds: ” average is normal, it’s easier and more efficient” and this applies to all sorts of dynamics so this paragraph is a bit long! The only way any of us really find joy in our lives is when we understand and have a sense of control over the world around us whether that is physical, social and emotional. Self-awareness of an impairment to any part of our bodies or minds is extremely difficult to learn to enjoy or feel is right, because society has a powerful negative bias and defines it is wrong. Yes some people live and thrive and stand out from the average, often those inspirational people and always the ones who are public advocates for inclusive design, but the average disabled person doesn’t. So I think the average disabled person, underneath any external image of pride and confidence with their own body, knows that anything that helps them return an average level of performance to the part of their body that is not working averagely, is preferable to waiting for society (that is every ap and website designer) to build in fully inclusive functionality. Individually speaking they won’t use equality laws, they won’t complain but they will remain reliant on others to make up the deficit, that’s the daily grind. That is why even the hint of a medical fix to an impairment gets disabled people, their family, friends and all those journalists so excited, for slightly different reasons. On the supply side, a partly accessible website hasn’t got a hope of creating any excitement in anyone. There is no positive incentive inside a company to invest enough to deliver real inclusion, the drivers are mainly about limiting risk of legal problems, but hardly anyone uses the law anyway so this risk is not strong and probably weakening. . The business model has never been proved to make any sense either. It is often stated that disabled people have a combined spending power of £80 billion, ready money for any company to get its hands on by making a few accessibility adjustments, but this figure has been promoted for years and years, and it seems to me the cost of designing everything to work with every kind of disability and impairment would cost in the orders of magnitude higher. Having said this, has anyone actually costed what making society accessible would cost and what the economic benefit would be?

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