Monday, February 6, 2017

Accessibility should be the norm, not just a feature.

Over the last 100 years, the price, power and performance of technology have been on an exponential curve. We have seen the dawn of Television, Computers, The Gaming industry, the Internet, Smartphones and Tablets to name just a few. Looking ahead into the next 5 years we can see major advancements in area's like;
  • AI's 
  • Robots 
  • Virtual Reality 
  • and the Internet of Things 
While each advancement under these broad groupings have indeed been amazing and no doubt will continue to do so.

Too often we forget that technology is more than circuit boards, resistors, compute or software, but that technology is a tool created to achieve a goal. In the stone age, technology was the tools they created. The same holds true for the bronze age, the iron age even up to today. And this is why accessibility is massively important.

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both "direct access" (i.e. unassisted) and "indirect access" meaning compatibility with a person's assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).

The Web Accessibility Initiative has helped with this with the publication of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines In December 2008 and which have since become an ISO standard in October 2012. However these standards have not been updated since 2009, it shows that tech’s next frontier will be removing barriers for disabled people.

The idea that technology should be for everyone without exception, is something that drives us at StatusHub. One of our great customers, Michigan State University has revealed their contribution to the accessibility space that we believe is life changing for the blind.

Reading a computer screen in Braille is a cumbersome process today. The visually impaired people who rely on the system of raised dots only have access to one line at a time. Beyond that, current systems don't translate charts or graphs. A team of researchers from Michigan Engineering and the School of Music, Theater and Dance are working on a solution. Their technology, which has been described as a leader in the field, relies on the pneumatic use of liquid or air to shrink the mechanism and expand it so it can display more at once. Their goal is for it to display the equivalent of a page of Kindle text at once.

At StatusHub, we have spent the last few months reviewing our own accessibility. Our ethos is tied to how we help make our customer's user experiences better. And we will never stop pushing the limits on this to raise the bar up repeatedly.

From the results of the report, we commissioned around how 'accessible-friendly' our service is, we did okay. But, okay isn't good enough for us. It never is. We're committed that by the end of the year after we've done some housework, restructured them to fit closer to our ideologies, and bring on more consistency in features, as well as new ones - that Statushub will have significantly improved this rating.

We want to be the most accessible out there to keep technology for everyone and just not the preserve of the able and I.T. savvy. This is crucial as we feel too often software services are developed, and they make sense to a small group of people who understand them, as opposed to being fully transparent and leverage-able by everyone.

Technology should not be a stick to be feared. It should be a carrot to encourage, develop, and share ideas to help find answers or solve tangible problems that change people's lives or situations - and these come from and benefit everyone.

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