The amount of people who use the internet is expanding rapidly every day; unfortunately, people living with disabilities are not always included. The World Economic Forum estimates there are 3.5 billion internet users globally. With the UN estimating the global disability rate at 15%, that’s over 500 million people who are either precluded from accessing the web due to their accessibility needs, or, alternatively, are forced to have a lower quality of service. Bridging the gap for this disadvantaged group are developments in adaptive software, of which AAC (Augmentative and alternative communication) may be the most important.
Communication disability is relatively common in the USA, affecting up to 10% of the population. This symptom of disability can be especially deleterious in its impact on individuals as it can impair their ability to access medical help – a study published in the journal of Comparative Study found that tools are required to aid them in holistic wellbeing, as well as the matter of therapy for their condition. With more and more public services moving onto a digital-first basis, more needs to be done. This is where AAC apps come into play. AAC helps people with communication problems, by providing a way for people without fine motor skills to control and access their devices. This is enormously helpful, whether that’s helping a child with cerebral palsy get involved in the classroom, or in assisting an adult with mobility problems to access urgent care.
An inclusive platform
Getting disabled people onto the internet will then help them to access a greater range of care. According to USA Today, social security disability benefits are now increasingly moving to an online-focused platform. This focus on aiding disabled people means that these services are being designed with accessibility in mind. Making services disabled-first in their digital implementation will mean that one of the most disadvantaged sections of society is first in the queue to collect the resources they need to live independently.
A better future?
Much of what is developed today does not meet the standards required to help disabled people function fully in modern society. However, this could be set to change. A roundup of expert views by TechCrunch noted how many technology experts, in companies ranging from Microsoft to Apple, are set to promote adherence to WCAG principles – a set of guidelines for digital content that will prioritize the needs of disabled people. Notably, many companies believe their programmers do not find WCAG principles complex, or hard to implement. To the contrary, they are often common sense steps that apply equally to disabled people and those who simply want to access the internet in a straightforward and simple manner
This is the key to disability inclusiveness on the web – it doesn’t mean exceptionalism. It’s actually more about creating software that is simple, clean, and easy to access. This, in turn, enables people living with disability to access content without issue.