Accessibility as a service

Accessibility Engineering: The Road Ahead

Hardik Baweja | July 21, 2017
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What will the US do with super computers, or China and Europe with Silk Routes or India with digital growth if a major part of its population is not equipped to consume the information? I am not against aiming for digital growth! All I want to suggest is that ice cream tastes sweeter when it is shared. I am in favor of an inclusive society, with a little more focus on all its sections and user demographics.Even today, the confusion persists! Engineering and marketing teams are unable to come to a consensus on why accessibility engineering is critical: whether it is for reaching out to accessibility users or helping those users reach them. The answer is simple, you are building a two-way, single lane road. Both ways are destined to meet on the same path. It all depends on you how soon you realize the need for constructing this road because you don’t want to be left alone, letting competitors moving ahead of you. Once users start moving on to a competitor’s road, it is not an easy task to bring them on your route.

Laws have been enforced to put accessibility on top of upir list of business priorities. In the last decade, we have seen many suits filed against organizations of various sizes for not being accessible. Going forward, the rules will become even more stringent.

Governments are taking a keen interest in the topic. A number of non-profit organizations, ‘global connects’, and advocacy forums are extending their support by building the required platforms. For example, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol (by G3ICT, an advocacy initiative launched in December 2006, by the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development), was signed by 160 countrieslast July. Accessibility to ICT is “a fundamental right’ equivalent to accessibility to buildings and transportation.”

HCL has invested millions of dollars in bringing Accessibility to the masses. Sunil Aggarwal, VP-ERS Business division at HCL, speaks about the company’s focus on Accessibility and plans surrounding the same, saying, “Accessible technologies need to scale up to help us tap into the talent that everyone possesses, and break the barriers of physical disabilities. Everyone has the right to information and thus, it is essential for information technology to be inclusive and universal.” HCL is a prominent player in the Accessibility space with a lot of ongoing marquee engagements.

Currently, several misunderstandings related to Accessibility are prevailing across industries, especially within the mid-sized corporate sector. I would like to clarify some of these myths:

Common Myths about Accessibility Engineering

Myth 1: Going accessible is a costly affair

Truth: Making your organization accessible is not actually expensive. In fact, most of the companies are presently spending a lot more on other productivity apps and ERP systems. Engineering services providers like HCL are investing a lot into automation to bring down the cost of accessibility. With the increase in automation and less human touch points, cost of accessibility is further decreasing. Their core understanding of the domain is the key.

Myth 2: Accessibility is a CSR activity

Truth: Accessibility is not a CSR activity, it never was. Accessibility is a key business need in the 21st century. This definitely is one of the top 21st Century technologies. You are targeting a billion people live with life-altering disabilities (vision, hearing, speech, cognitive and mobility); 54 million persons with disabilities live in the United States.

Myth 3: Accessibility is for large organizations

Truth: Making our applications accessible will not only benefit large organizations but small and medium businesses as well. Most of the governments around the world are mandating that they will do business only for the accessible products and services.

Myth 4: Accessibility is for education industry

Truth: This is definitely wrong. It can be easily understood that every human being has their right to eat, to read, to learn, to consume, to buy, to travel, to lend, to invest, and to live a healthy life. And hence need of better accessibility is everywhere. It is there in travel industry, in banking, in ecommerce, in education and similarly everywhere else.

HCL’s services have won customers’ trust, with several clients praising the company for its efforts towards building accessible technologies. A leading ISV said, “Thanks team! It is deeply gratifying to hear such positive feedback from our DT team. It couldn’t have happened without the hard work of our engineering team and HCL’s diligence in ensuring thorough test coverage. Overall, this has been a great example of how true collaboration helps us make products that satisfy every customer. Thanks to Saurabh and team for their partnership!

HCL manages every aspect of Accessibility from inclusive-design, development, testing & remediation, to on-ground usability and certifications. In addition, Accessibility Marketing is now under the limelight. Brand managers must use Accessibility Marketing tools to ensure their messages are received and absorbed by the widest audience possible. After all, you cannot afford to miss out on a seventh of the world’s total population, especially after making products and services accessible.

Beyond these services, HCL is also collaborating with organizations to help train their engineers. Accessibility is not a ‘one-time watch’ movie, but an Oscar winning blockbuster that will be actioned and reviewed several times. Hence, it is critical to train your team on Accessibility at various stages of the software development lifecycle.

As they say, “where there is a will, there is a way”. I would add “where there is a way, there is a better world tomorrow”. I believe, as a 21st Century Enterprise, HCL will ensure that products and services from leading organizations become even more available and accessible, serving a customer base that comprises over a billion of users.

References:

G3ict – the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies

 

Note: This blog was originally posted at HCL Blog page https://www.hcltech.com/blogs/accessibility-engineering-road-ahead.

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