Tech companies urged to address ‘untapped billion’ disabled users

Friday, 6 June 2014 10:29am

Mobile device manufacturers have been urged to better address a great untapped market that is globally worth US$8 trillion a year — people with a disability and their immediate friends and families.

According to the recently published Accessibility White Paper, authored by Lewis Insight and commissioned by telecommunications company Telefonica, there are as many as one billion people worldwide with a disability.

However, these people — largely people with hearing, vision, learning, cognitive and physical impairments — have been under-addressed by technology manufacturers.

“Many of the services that are taken for granted when reaching for the latest mobile devices are simply not available to this disadvantaged group on account of their lack of touch, motor skills, cognitive capacity, hearing or sight,” the white paper reads. “In short, accessibility to the modern mobile world is often restricted.”

The white paper argues that while creating or adapting technology to be usable by people with a disability was expensive in the past, hardware and IT infrastructure costs in recent times have dropped dramatically. In addition, in moving toward software — operating systems and applications as the vehicles for functionality — it is now easier and more cost effective to adapt technology to meet the needs of people with a disability.

Demand for accessible technology among people with a disability has also grown dramatically.

“Ask any disabled person and they will tell you that they want to be part of this; to benefit from developing technology, have the latest device and live in the real digital world — not in an artificial disabled isolated pocket of the world,” the white paper reads.

To tap this large market the white paper argues that industry must better adhere to best practice — such as the standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict).

In addition, technology manufacturers also require better industry standards. “Be they device manufacturers, connectivity providers, IT services or applications and content suppliers, these standards are essential in order for the computerized and simplified set of assistive technologies to offer the option of choice to the different segments of the untapped billion.”

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