Accessibility: the missing essential in cloud services

Friday, 22 August 2014 10:02am

Independent access expert Media Access Australia has released a research paper on the need for commercial services and governments to incorporate accessibility for people with disabilities into their cloud services.

The research finds that improving the useability of cloud services is an essential criterion in organisations efforts to maximise their customer engagement opportunities and ensure that they are not left behind by their competitors, some of whom have already discovered the commercial potential of access.

The white paper, The accessibility of cloud computing – current and future trends, authored by Media Access Australia’s Dr Scott Hollier, is the second in a series covering important and topical issues in access to information and media through technology and is sponsored by the Australian Web Industry Association (AWIA).

For the information and communications technology industry, Dr Hollier said the research found a need for cloud service providers and application developers to better implement the global accessibility standards provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

In addition, the paper identifies that the synchronisation of accessibility preferences across multiple devices via the cloud is a major consumer benefit and strong factor in consumer choice.

“The role of industry is to ensure that the implementation of cloud accessibility is taken seriously at the coal face of product innovation. This includes building cloud products to incorporate the international accessibility requirements of WCAG 2.0, ATAG 2.0 and WCAT2ICT, much like the approach to websites.

“Vendors and developers that work across ecosystems will improve their chances of gaining market share in the disability market. It is important for industry to understand that consumers are aware that their device is accessible and expect that apps and other services accessed via that device will be equally accessible. The needs of disabled employees, including the ability to work remotely or via virtual offices, should also be a key consideration in office-wide cloud systems.”

For government, the research found a pressing need for higher speed fixed and mobile broadband, properly resourcing cloud-related policies, and for agencies to incorporate cloud-related W3C accessibility standards into their policy requirements, in particular the use of WCAG 2.0, ATAG 2.0 and WCAG2ICT.

“In doing so governments can provide early markets to help accessibility of cloud services become commercially viable and also provide real-world platforms for accessibility issues to be tested and refined,” Dr Hollier said.

“This will help foster competition in the marketplace, leading to genuine consumer choice (which is currently hampered by a lack of universal accessibility) and drive costs of accessible cloud-based solutions downwards.

“Governments also need to ensure that key infrastructure such as fast broadband is provided as this is essential to both cloud services in general, and accessibility in particular. Governments have a very important role in nurturing the adoption of the cloud, especially in areas where commercial markets or segments are not fully-formed or commercialised.”

Alex Varley, Chief Executive Officer, Media Access Australia said the research would provoke discussion, reflection and then action to incorporate accessibility into cloud services.

“As the cloud grows and more competition is injected into the market, accessibility becomes a major issue to ensure both a level-playing field and proper coverage of the market. Put bluntly, if your work involves the cloud, then you need to understand this issue,” he said.

Bret Treasure, Chairman of AWIA said AWIA welcomed the opportunity to support valuable research for the Australian web industry on how people with disabilities are engaging with cloud technology, and how web industry professionals need to evolve their practices to meet this growing market.

“The choices made by AWIA’s members—developers, designers, hosts, consultants, SEO, social media and marketing experts, sys admins, and content providers—strongly affect whether cloud services are accessible,” he said.

Links:

The accessibility of cloud computing – current and future trends can be accessed via our webform. Further white papers and guides can be accessed via our work page.

Media Access Australia is Australia’s only independent not-for-profit organisation devoted to increasing access to media for people with a disability and provides expert knowledge and advice on existing and emerging mainstream technologies to government, industry, educators, consumer organisations and individuals.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Dr Scott Hollier, Manager, Major Projects
Media Access Australia
Mobile: 0430 351 909
Phone: 02 9212 6242
Email: scott.hollier@mediaaccess.org.au

Bret Treasure, Chairman
Australian Web Industry Association
Mobile: 0409 908 133
Email: bret@webindustry.asn.au


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