Digital Inclusion and emerging technologies are spurring growth of Accessible/assistive technologies
The modern world is for everyone. The benefits that technology delivers must be for all groups of people, including people with disabilities (PWD) because it is important to make the world a place that is more diverse and inclusive.
People with disabilities (PWD), with an estimated population of 1.3 billion globally, make up an emerging market the size of China. With friends and family included (friends and family have an emotional connect with PWD, and act on the same), PWD is an underserved market.
Today, the Internet and digital services together form an important factor that is driving global economies. It has transformed the way we work, study, play, and live. With countries placing a premium on their respective social and digital Inclusion strategies, large populations of people, including PWDs, will increasingly go online to enhance the quality of their lives. This will spur economies to grow further, for as Booz Allen estimates, if all the people in just the UK could go online, it would add £63 billion to the economy (in annual GDP).
With these headwinds, the Internet is being increasingly opened to everyone. All over the world, legislation makes it mandatory for organizations to ensure that their products and services are accessible to the disabled. In many countries, it is a breach of legislation if anyone is excluded from being able to use a product or service. Towards this end, the WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines) set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) specify how to make content accessible, primarily for people with disabilities— via the Web, and across user agents, including mobile devices. The current version, WCAG 2.0, is an ISO standard, which all assistive technologies need to comply with. There are imminent timelines for an organization that makes it imperative for products and services to be compliant with standards, some of them in early 2018. In the US, Section 508 compliance will be effective from January 18, 2018, for all non-procured IT services. The European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.12 is another standard which websites of public sector bodies in the EU need to comply with , effective September 23, 2018.
Emerging technologies such as the Cloud, clubbed with Big Data, Machine Learning, and IoT are opening the world to also include people with special needs. Users with disabilities access assistive technologies via the Web, kiosks , and mobile, with embedded supports in texts and documents such as text to speech, screen reader functions, and voice recognition . PWDs also access web-based relay services for customer care and chat bots for sign language (like the Windows Kinect Sign Language translator). Wearable devices and supportive apps on smartphones too are channels that users with disabilities use extensively for accessing assistive technologies (plugins). However, with Cloud, Big Data, Machine Learning and IoT, people with disabilities could have a more seamless digital experience , be it for work, study, or just about anything.
The largest software producers of the world are all investing in making their products and services increasingly more accessible. One of the largest software producers consulted with HCL on its Accessibility initiative years ago. Today, HCL works with this software producer to develop accessible products, applications, and tools, while expanding the scope of the partnership (on accessibility) to include Productivity, Gaming, Cloud services, platform-based products and services, and R&D.
Similarly, HCL works with the world’s leading Internet Search and Ad company on its accessibility program, conducting accessibility testing for its services on both desktop and mobile devices, across platforms (Mac, Windows, Ubuntu, Chrome OS, Android, iOS) and browsers (Chrome, IE, Firefox, Safari). This involves working with cutting-edge accessibility tools and technologies, including Assistive Technologies such as Screen Readers JAWS, VoiceOver, ChromeVox, NVDA, Screen Magnifier, and Accessibility Tools like CCA and Lazy contrast to name a few. Some of the products for which HCL conducts accessibility testing for this customer include online video streaming, online search engine, and online chat.
Not just software and online, but the scope for accessibility extends to other industries as well. With engineering R&D in HCL’s DNA, the company has for years now been doing pioneering work in helping customers across industries such as Software and Online, Telecom, Banking and Financial Services, Aviation, and Education make their products and services not just cutting-edge, but also Accessible. With a growing team of certified experts in Accessible/Assistive digital technologies, and by leveraging its expertise in Digital, Design Thinking, and the Internet of Things, HCL is today working with customers to help make their products and services accessible to people with visual, mobility, speech, cognitive, and auditory impairments. HCL helps ensure Accessibility across Customer Support Services, Testing and Remediation, Documentation, and Product Development. The guiding principles of HCL’s work in Accessible/Assistive technologies are:
- To present information and features in way that can be easily perceived by people with disabilities
- To ensure that user interface components and navigation are easily operable
- To ensure that information and operation of the user interface is easy to understand
- To ensure that the content is robust, and can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies
This involves working closely with HCL’s customers’ development teams and understanding their respective internal standards for accessibility, given their product-specific needs. HCL proactively helps developers understand the accessibility problems (defects) while recommending robust solutions to remediate the defects. HCL leverages its highly-automated framework to support Accessibility at various stages of the product development lifecycle – estimation models, test strategies (across compliance, usability, release), DevOps and tool development, and remediation services.
HCL partners with its customers in building highly accessible and cutting-edge products and services. Machine Learning, automated Test & Remediation services, the HCL Accessibility Lab setup with Utility features (as-a-service), and HCL’s partnerships ensure scale, scope, and success of our customers’ Accessibility programs. Digital inclusion is a mainstay. Technology is for everyone, and enabling HCL’s customers to make their products and services accessible to everyone, is very gratifying.