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Transforming Tech: Addressing the Need for a more Digitally Accessible Society

  • Publish Date: Posted 10 months ago
  • Author:by Adela Buliman

Adela Buliman, Accessibility QA Lead and Customer Success Manager at Inclusion and Accessibility Labs shares her thoughts

In Adela Buliman’s role she ensures that all digital accessibility audits are of the highest standard and in accordance with WCAG 2.1 standards. This involves testing websites and digital products to identify any barriers that may prevent people with disabilities from accessing and using them effectively. She works closely with developers, designers, and project managers to ensure that accessibility is considered throughout the development lifecycle.

The Digital Revolution: Are people with disabilities being

excluded from it?

She also bridges the gap between customers and the QA team to provide customers with the best possible experience. Overall, Adela’s goal is to make sure that digital products are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities. It's a challenging but incredibly rewarding job, and she’s proud to be making a positive impact on the digital world.

The Digital Revolution: are people with disabilities being excluded from it?

Shortly after completing my degree in Computing and Electronic Engineering, I realised that accessibility had never been mentioned during my 5 years in higher level education. This would foreshadow the advocacy I would later take on in my career. With some experience as a software tester and a passion for identifying code errors, I pursued a role in Quality Assurance. I landed in the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, where I got the opportunity to immerse myself in a critical area of tech, digital inclusion. About two months into my role, I was offered the opportunity to move to Inclusion and Accessibility Labs; an organisation that was created by NCBI with a focused mission of making the world digitally accessible.

What barriers do people with disabilities face on non-accessible websites?

It was in this role that I first learned that people with disabilities could access the digital world. As it turns out, regardless of what senses or abilities someone possesses, there is some sort of hardware or software that enables that person to interact with technology. For instance, if you are blind or have low vision, you might use a text-to-speech engine like a screen reader which will read out what is on a webpage and allow you to interact with elements using your keyboard.

💡 Did you know VANRATH are the first recruitment agency in Northern Ireland to implement web accessibility software using Texthelp’s ReachDeck? You can listen to this blog by clicking the ear icon on our website!

However, most websites and digital products are not accessible to people with disabilities because they have not been designed or developed that way. This creates significant barriers in terms of access to information, education, employment, health, and equal opportunities. Although accessibility is a fundamental human right, this is not reflected across the technological world. Technology is essential to communicate and to access information, entertainment, and services, especially today. And so, it is essential that people with disabilities are given equal opportunities to make the most of technology too.

Some common examples of digital accessibility issues include websites that are difficult to navigate using assistive technologies such as screen readers, videos without captions or transcripts, and online forms that cannot be completed without the use of a mouse. These issues can make it very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to access information, communicate, or complete tasks online.

By prioritising digital accessibility, we can ensure that everyone has equal access to information, services, and opportunities online, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

What are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines?

Creating accessible digital content can seem daunting when you aren’t aware of what you should be implementing, however, there is an internationally recognised standard called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The WCAG are a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines provide a framework for creating websites and digital content that is more inclusive and accessible to people with visual, auditory, cognitive, and physical disabilities.

The current version of the WCAG is WCAG 2.1, and they are split into four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Each principle has a set of guidelines and success criteria that web developers and designers can use to ensure their websites and digital content are accessible to people with disabilities.

By following the WCAG guidelines, web developers and designers can help ensure that their websites and digital content are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

Organisations can ensure that they are avoiding litigation, and demonstrating their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What is my legal requirement to be digitally accessible?

Digital accessibility legislation is designed to ensure that digital products and services are accessible to people with disabilities. Many countries have enacted laws and regulations to promote digital accessibility and ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to information, services, and opportunities online. Some examples of digital accessibility legislation include:

European Union Web Accessibility Directive - The EU Web Accessibility Directive requires that all public sector websites and mobile applications be accessible to people with disabilities, including those with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments.

The UK Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 – requires public sector organisations in the United Kingdom to make their websites and mobile applications digital accessible.

European Accessibility Act – a European Law coming in June 2025 will which require many private sectors to be digitally accessible across all the digital products and services.

Overall, digital accessibility legislation is an important step towards creating a more inclusive and equitable digital world. By ensuring that digital products and services are accessible to everyone, we can help ensure that people with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in society, access information, and achieve their goals.

How digitally accessible is Northern Ireland?

In 2022, my team in IA Labs conducted research into the level of digital accessibility in Northern Ireland. We tested the largest organisations in key sectors like government, utilities, education, health, and so on. It’s important to note that we did not test for full compliance, just for whether or not they were mostly usable. We found that most of the government department websites and local authorities were usable by people with disabilities. The health and social care trusts, and schools were about 50% usable.

However, the private sector fared worst of all. We tested the 10 largest employers in NI, and only 3 of them were even navigable. Although they are currently not required under law to be accessible, these private firms’ performances in terms of digital accessibility were well below par given their turnovers, global reach, and customer base.

The full NI Digital Accessibility Index report and findings will be released Wednesday 24th May which will include an in-depth breakdown on this research – stay updated on www.ialabs.ie

IA Lab’s mission to make the world digitally accessible

IA Labs was established with the aim of creating a voice for people excluded from the digital revolution. The founding members of IA Labs want to drive forward the issue of equal inclusion and access to the digital world for everyone.

IA Labs specialise in website and app audits which will be measured against the Web Accessibility Directive, with our experienced staff offering actionable feedback to help improve your website for people with disabilities. The area of accessible reviews is one that is specialised and with the support of IA Labs you can be confident that the service provided will uphold against the WCAG directive.

 

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