November 30, 2016

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Accessibility Engineering: Doing it the right way

The world is changing, so are the needs of the people living here. There was a time when we all got united to fight against racial discrimination. Then, the baton was moved to fight against discrimination based on nationalities and we found a multi-cultural globalized work environment. Moving forward, we began a movement for women empowerment to embark on an era of equality in the professional world. Now is the time that we must make efforts to make our products and services accessible to people with disabilities or those with special needs. We need to touch these lives, to bring happiness on their faces and most importantly, to uplift the bar of humanity.

As per Wikipedia, “Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people who experience disabilities.”

Accessibility for the disabled enables millions of people to enjoy their lives.

Besides the responsibility of organizations to make their products (and services) accessible; governments, local communities and NGOs are also making sure that we do it the right way. Rules have been made and laws have been passed to bring about equality in all sections of the society.

It is estimated that at least a billion people across the world are suffering from one or the other forms of disability. It can be a temporary disability or a permanent one. It can be a partial disability, a complete disability, or even situational disability. It can be disability due to visibility, hearing, or mobility, or any other kind of disability. Leaving them behind without enabling them, we are actually letting go of 17% of the total available market as well. Hence, from a financial standpoint as well it is important to consider making handicap accessible products and services for people with disabilities.

In this mobile world, every machine needs to be handicap accessible.

Every application needs to be handicap accessible, whether it a mobile app, a web based solution, or a desktop application, from a single page webpage to more complex banking portals or social networking sites. Companies are working hard to bring the best of solutions that can help people with disabilities to access the information around. They are launching high quality screen readers and next generation operation systems for all platforms which are responsive by design. But with newer technologies, cognitive processing and AI tools, the scope for improvement is definitely there.

The work that HCL Engineering and R&D Services team is presently doing to make products and services accessible is worth mentioning here. It all started with a 5-member team learning on how to make a product accessible for all. Today, hundreds of engineers apply their thought process daily to make hundreds of products and services accessible to people with disabilities. HCL team provides end to end outsourced services, from design consulting to usability, from testing and remediation to training services. HCL has invested in a state of the art Accessibility Lab, which is being well appreciated by business leaders across the globe. The facilities are made accessible to help people with disabilities who are working on multiple projects. These teams play the most important role in the usability studies. They testify the accessibility quality of the product and assess whether a product or service has a delight in using it. They certify this quality check.

In this journey, HCL has made partnerships with a list of NGOs working in this direction, to train PwDs, to exchange ideas, bring in the task force required, and to provide equal job opportunities to qualified professionals. HCL accessibility team has pledged to bring the best of out of every product and to help the organizations willing to come forward to make their products accessible.

A customer working with a leading ISV appreciated the work done by TEAM HCL by stating “I wanted to send out a thank you note to all of you for having been so cooperative with us. We are on a time crunch due to our shipping date approaching soon and I really appreciate that you accommodated both our iOS and Android experiences into your schedule (I know you had to move things around for that, plus work on weekends). Your team was also very quick in responding and following up daily with the bugs, on our request.”

We are working on the 21st Century Technologies and it is our responsibility to take the right business decisions and make sure we do it the right way.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility