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MEF, in association with Lewis Insights & Syncwords, recently hosted a special roundtable discussion on the key findings from the new report: The Hidden Segment – The World’s disabled billion. Report Author and host of the roundtable Chris Lewis shares his top takeaways from the discussion, which saw a panel of experts explore accessibility in technology.

As an analyst I am always looking for as diverse a set of perspectives as I can get when trying to get my head around a subject. Well, on July 15th we did just that at the Mobile Ecosystem Forum event on People With Disability, a market of a billion you should consider.

Contributions from a Government Chief Scientific Officer, telecoms companies, technology giants, people working at the coalface of accessibility and a few more all stepped onto the virtual stage. The subject has obviously captured people’s imagination in the light of more focus on the shift from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) through Environment Social & Governance (ESG) on the road to sustainability as an overarching goal.

The standards are there to be implemented but spreading the word throughout your organisation and embedding it in design thinking is what is required. But, most importantly, giving the PWDs the confidence and skillsets to leverage all of the technology at their disposal must be a priority.”

The individual contributions of the fourteen contributors should be taken on their own merits in the full video playback but here are a few highlights: 

  • Figures around disability are fuzzy – the fact is the sheer scale is enormous covering hearing impaired, Vision impaired, physical and cognitive – remember some of these will be invisible 
  • The billion PWD represent an economic spending power of some $4 Trillion and want to benefit from the digital dividend 
  • We should consider the elderly and digitally impoverished alongside the PWDs in terms of building inclusion 
  • Designing from scratch with inclusion and accessibility in mind is critical but don’t let it slip once included – no regression 
  • Leveraging the PWDs themselves in terms of input to design and products/ services will result in better outcomes  – it is a talented pool of people and they know best as they experience it every day 
  • Technology has advanced so much that bringing the billion into the digital economy is a realistic goal in the short term but educating the PWDs themselves along with all channels is critical 
  • Using technology as a proxy for permanently or temporarily lost senses and function is economically viable and getting better – we are even tapping into brain waves for communicating now! 
  • Making individuals, businesses and communities comfortable with understanding and helping the PWDs is our overarching goal 
  • If we get it right the issue of accessibility will become just a standard part of how we build our digital environments and interact with our customers. 

A more inclusive design will result in everyone’s experience improving but this has got to be across all platform, all apps and all devices.

As I said, it’s worth taking the time and watching (or listening in my case) to all of the contributions and take them on their individual merit. The call to arms from everyone is to make accessibility a mainstream issue and not an ad hoc one. You can test your thinking around the subject with everything from how you work your coffee machine, to how you navigate the TV and searching and shopping on line. 

It is even worth thinking about how your community functions and how it might be rendered more accessible to everyone. The standards are there to be implemented but spreading the word throughout your organisation and embedding it in design thinking is what is required. But, most importantly, giving the PWDs the confidence and skillsets to leverage all of the technology at their disposal must be a priority. And, finally, don’t assume it is all technology, putting the human at the heart of this and even using people to assist in real time is still a vital component. 

Chris Lewis

founding Director, Lewis Insight

  

Watch now – On Demand

In July 2021, MEF in association with Lewis Insights & Syncwords, presented a live roundtable discussion on key findings from MEF’s report: The Hidden Segment – The World’s disabled billion followed by A debate on Awareness, Education, Inclusion and Opportunity with Government, Education, and Industry on how the present will shape the future, and what you can do to help.

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