February 9, 2017

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Engineered to be Accessible: Technology that Touches Lives

Co-Authored by: Vaibhav Singh

The world is changing fast, so are we. But are we really adapting to the changing situations and making the world a more accessible place for the generations to come? Let’s find out. What clicks in your mind when you think of accessibility? When you talk about technology, accessibility pertains to a wide range of people with a wide range of abilities, not just the folks with disabilities.

To make sure everyone is connected with the world, technology should be built in such a way that it should not create a hindrance for people with certain disabilities. Technology is considered to be at its best when it’s accessible by everyone, thus making lives better than before, making us more human, and changing the lives of millions for years to come. Accessible technology is the technology that users can adapt to meet their visual, hearing, dexterity, cognitive, and speech needs and interaction preferences. Accessible technology provides accessibility options built into products, as well as, comprises of specialty hardware and software add-ons called assistive technology (AT) that help individuals interact with a computer.

The biggest challenge with Accessibility is to blend it with engineering ecosystem

The World Disability Day is celebrated on 3rd of December each year since 1992 and it’s officially called the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Each year, a different theme is set and the theme for this year’s International Day was “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”. The theme accounts for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are recently adopted and the role of these goals is building a more accessible world for persons with disabilities. The Prime Minister of India on 3 December 2015, launched Accessible India Campaign which was launched to serve the differently-able community of the country.

If you turn the pages of history, you will find out that people with disabilities were actually people with great intellect and great abilities. Let’s take some examples

  1. Albert Einstein: Einstein was thought to have a learning disability. Einstein failed to talk till Class 4 because of language disability and he could not read until the age of 9. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for explaining photoelectric effect.
  2. Wilson Woodrow: Woodrow served as the 28th US President from 1913 to 1921. Wilson Woodrow had dyslexia and struggled with reading in his entire life. But with determination and dedication he showed the world his capabilities to excel instead of being bogged down by the odds.
  3. Franklin D. Roosevelt: At the age of 39, his legs were paralyzed by polio and his political career could have finished but he showed the world that power comes within and served as the 32nd US President from 1933 until his death in 1945.

At HCL we believe in “Equal Accessibility with Equal Opportunity.” We at HCL are committed to providing an accessible environment by leveraging the use of technology in such a manner that it creates opportunities for each and every disabled individual by any means. People with disabilities don’t have to feel low as we believe in building technology that touches lives and keeps on improving them for the generations to come. HCL has its own Accessibility Lab in which we have a blend of both worlds i.e. Engineers with abilities and Engineers with special abilities (Disabled Engineers) that work together to make products and services better day by day.

During the Software Development Life Cycle, every product should be built keeping in mind the “Universal Accessibility” approach, which includes all user groups during software development process. Accessibility should be integrated from the beginning of the product development cycle when the application or product is in the planning or design phase.

According to Wikipedia Universal, usability refers to the design of information and communications products and services that are usable for every citizen. The concept of “Universal Accessibility” is “usable by all”. Universal Accessibility has the standards and guidelines of design that must be implemented for proper Accessibility. The motive of these guidelines is to facilitate the use of a software (Mobile, Web, and Desktop) application for people with disabilities. The Section 508 government guidelines are applicable to all public-sector websites.

If you are trying to build an Accessible product, the following two parameters must be kept in mind:

1. Programmatic Access

Programmatic Access is the most critical component for creating accessibility in Applications. Programmatic Access involves ensuring all UI controls are exposed programmatically to the AT.

When UI controls are exposed to AT, the AT is able to determine what actions and options are available to the user.

2. Keyboard Access

Keyboard access refers to the keyboard navigation and keyboard focus of an application (Web, Mobile, and Desktop). For users who are blind or have mobility issues, they should be able to navigate the user interface with a keyboard. It is important to make sure that Keyboard navigation is linear and generally, the left to right and top to bottom approach is followed.

Lastly, it’s the duty of each and every individual to contribute at the individual level and help Disabling the “dis” from THE ABILITY, so as to celebrate a more Accessible World. Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential to celebrate and embrace our differences.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usability_engineering#Standards_and_guidelines