The Tech Industry Is in Desperate Need of an Accessibility Upgrade

June 23, 2016

2:04 pm

From artificial intelligence to news sharing, tech has become a prominent part of our daily routines. But even so, tech also has its limitations – particularly when it comes to inclusion. Despite its universal appeal, tech still has a long way to go when it comes to properly including marginalized individuals into the creation and development process, as well as recognizing them as an important part of the user demographic.

When it comes to tech, how can accessibility improve to better support disabled individuals?

Why Accessibility Matters

Disabled individuals are an often-underrepresented demographic in any field, despite their large numbers. And disabilities can range from being physical and hypervisible, to mental and invisible.

Tech, for all its triumphs in making our lives easier, also contribute to the discrimination and bias that already permeates most of our society. In the lack of acknowledgement of the ways that tech affects and is used amongst users, it’s silently contributing to the bias.

In the Medium post, “From Universal Design to Assistive Technology: Where the physical can’t, the digital can, writer Eyitemi Popo explores the importance of incorporating accessibility more widely into mainstream tech:

“Technology has the potential to be an equalizer. Yet, far too often, designers tend to design with only their ability in mind. Their ability becomes the standard for their target user. The usability of the product, i.e the measure of the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with a product or system [2], is also tested and analyzed with this same “standard” ability level as a basis for gauging system features like learnability, efficiency, and error frequency.”

A small step in the right direction that the industry can take now would be to push for more effort to make tech as accessible as possible.

What Does Accessibility Look Like?

Accessibility can vary depending on what specific niche within the disabled community it is being focused on. For example, incorporating text descriptors for visual images on social media or incorporating closed captions to video content are examples of incorporating accessibility that caters to those with visual and hearing impairments.

But for accessibility to work, it needs to dive deeper than that – in fact, the change should be examined at a development stage. From programming to including accessible solutions within program frameworks – these are the areas that will have a drastic impact on how accessibility is received. By working from the inside out, we move accessibility from being a niche interest to a priority for all users.

The most important thing to know is that, like any other marginalization, able-bodied individuals need to have a vested interest in bringing awareness to the overall community. And truly, working towards making tech more accessible is a mission that affects all of us. Without this inclusion, we push tech more towards the outskirts and halt the growth and potential that it holds to impact users.

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Cameron is a tech and culture journalist, comic book enthusiast, and lives near New York City. A graduate of Stockton University, she's using her words to shift the world of online journalism, one byline at a time. When she's not writing, she can be found reading sci-fi novels, collecting succulents, and planning her next obnoxious hair color. Cameron is an editorial fellow at Tech.Co. Send your tips to [email protected] or tweet @BlkGirlManifest.

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