“…I can’t fill forms on many websites using my voice. It is such a simple activity but made difficult for people like me who use voice input.”
“…I can’t buy groceries via the supermarket’s app. It doesn’t work properly with my phone’s screen reader.”
Unfortunately, such experiences are common among people who use different types of assistive technology (AT). While many people with disabilities use AT to access digital interfaces like websites, software, or apps, such interfaces are rarely fully accessible with different AT.
A poorly designed digital interface not only creates frustration for AT users but also negatively impacts on their life opportunities. For example, my PhD research revealed that third-level students with physical and/or sensory disabilities were often denied education and career opportunities due to inaccessible digital technology.
Over the past few years, the digital technology industry has slowly worked towards making digital interfaces accessible. However, its focus has been mainly to comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) instead of simultaneously ensuring that an interface is usable for AT users.
To create a pleasant digital experience for AT users, designers and developers of software, website, and apps must understand the challenges that these users face while using them. Hence, it is crucial that the voice of AT users is heard when such digital interfaces are created.
AccessCloud is a digital accessibility initiative that makes this possible. People with disabilities using any of the following types of AT can work with AccessCloud to help make apps, websites, and software more accessible and usable for AT users.
- Alternative Navigation (for example, Headmouse, Dragon Naturally Speaking, On-Screen Keyboard, Eye Gaze Systems, Switch Systems, etc.)
- Magnification (for example, iOS Zoom, Android Zoom, Browser Zoom, ZoomText, etc.)
- Screen Readers (for example, TalkBack, VoiceOver, Narrator, JAWS, NVDA, etc.)
In today’s world where digital technology is omnipresent, the power of a well-designed digital interface to level the playing field for AT users cannot be overstated. Hence, it is time that digital technology is not only accessible as per WCAG but also inclusive to meet AT users’ needs.
Dr. Ruchi Palan is the head of research and development at AccessCloud. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.