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Accessibility & Inclusion

By Lasa Information Systems Team

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has many benefits and can be a powerful tool to help your organisation achieve its mission. This article provides some pointers for what you can do to make technology use in your organisation as inclusive as possible.

Assistive technologies can make your services and information more accessible to wider groups of people and your ICT more accessible to enable staff to be more productive. People with disabilities and literacy issues will gain the most benefit from available technologies with a little awareness and planning.

It is never too early to start and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Who is affected by accessibility and inclusion issues?

Potentially anyone and everyone, it shouldn’t be assumed that everyone will be able to use standard keyboard, mouse, screen, software and furniture. You will usually get supplied standard mice and keyboards when you buy a computer. Not everyone can read English easily or read black print on a white background at 12pt font. Some people may have less access to technology because of factors such as their age, gender or ethnicity.

Groups who typically have more difficulties with using computers

  • People with visual impairments
  • Older people with poor sight.
  • People with dyslexia.
  • People with physical disabilities and/or impairments.
  • People who have had a poor education.
  • People with learning difficulties.
  • People who have English as a second language
  • People who develop impairment as a result of using a computer that is not adapted to their needs.

What you can do?

It is possible to obtain and set up various hardware and software that can make computers easier to use. This is known as assistive technology, a term most commonly used to refer to devices and adaptations that allow people with disabilities to more easily use computers or communicate.

There are also several things you should be aware of and consider when producing information and publicity, and there are various legal obligations organisations must comply with.

Assistive Technology

For your computer’s hardware, and technology: set up hardware that is easy to support for example alternate types of keyboards and mouse devices, large monitors screens, large print labels for keyboards, and, maybe a portable induction loop. All these are the most widely used and appreciated by individuals with disabilities and impairments, see the article on Making Computers accessible for disabled people.

For your computer’s software, be sure that people can adapt their computer to the way they want by using accessibility/access options in the Operating System (OS). Users should be able to change the way the computer screen looks and maybe sounds, see the article on Making Computers accessible for disabled people and Adapting Your Computer To Meet Your Needs section. Many organisations also buy some software to help people with language. For example software is available that allows you to use your computer in other languages. See Multilingual PC software for details.  You can also get software to help with reading and writing difficulties.

Information and publicity

When producing information and publicity in electronic formats, these materials should be capable of being ‘read aloud’, and/or it should be possible to easily zoom in or magnify the content using hardware and software on computers or other devices. For example PDF documents are widely used on websites, and emailed to people and can be magnified by Adobe Acrobat Reader software on a computer. However it is also important to make sure PDFs (and other electronic documents) are structured correctly so that they will be accessible. See the article An Introduction To PDF Accessibility for further guidance.

The solution for your website is to ensure that you are aware of the issues around website accessibility. Make sure that whoever is creating your website for you knows about W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and accessibility good practice, and that these are incorporated into your website. For an overview of the potential problems and tips for resolving them, see the article Make Your Website Accessible to Visually Impaired People. There are several other articles in the Accessible Websites section of the knowledgebase that provide more detailed information.

Making sure your website is built with accessibility in mind will make it easier for everyone to use.

Legal issues

Thinking about accessibility and inclusion in relation to technology is not just good practice. There are also some relevant legal requirements that organisations need to comply with. These are mainly covered by The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Health and Safety regulations. The articles on Computer Health and Safety and Web Accessibility and the Law, provide some guidance on these areas.

There are many more articles in the Knowledgebase section Accessibility and Inclusion that can help with this important issue. 

As well as the Knowledgebase articles Accessibility and Inclusion, there is the Accessibility and Inclusion Knowledgebase Discussion Forum – this is a useful place to share knowledge, experiences, and ask questions.

For help getting started in other areas of ICT, see our index of Starting Out articles.

About the author

Lasa Information Systems Team
Lasa's Information Systems Team provides a range of services to third sector organisations including ICT Health Checks and consulting on the best application of technology in your organisation. Lasa IST maintains the knowledgebase. Follow us on Twitter @LasaICT


Assistive Technology, Discussion Forum, Forum, Hardware, ICT, Induction loop, Operating System, PDF, Software, W3C, Website

Published: 1st May 2007 Reviewed: 25th March 2010

Copyright © 2007 Lasa Information Systems Team

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