Our world is increasingly transformed in a digital direction given the proliferation of digital products and services. This digital revolution is providing a host of opportunities to both businesses and citizens. Nevertheless, it is also raising concerns about a possible digital divide that could cause several groups of people to be left behind. This is the case for special segments of the population like elderly and disabled individuals. In this context, governments and businesses are increasingly concerned about the best ways to create an inclusive digital society that leaves no one behind. To this direction, industrial organizations and the public administration are undertaking investments in digital accessibility, including investments for their proper compliance to applicable regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Digital accessibility is the practice of designing digital assets, products and services in ways that make them accessible to all people, including the disabled. Digital accessibility practices are applied in website design, web applications development, mobile applications development, and digital content production. They ensure that websites, apps, and content can be easily navigated and understood by people with a wide range of abilities, including people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments.
Digital accessibility is of great socio-economic importance. It ensures that everyone has equal access to the digital world, which is a key for safeguarding citizens’ social, educational, and economic participation. Inaccessible digital content and services can create significant barriers to accessing information, engaging in social activities, and participating in the job market. IT companies must design digital products and services with accessibility in mind, as this is a prerequisite for a more inclusive and equitable digital world. Nevertheless, the importance of digital accessibility is not limited to people with disabilities. Rather, it extends to the society as a whole. As a prominent example, the availability of accessible designs and content can improve the user experience for older adults or people with temporary disabilities. For instance, it can enable people with a broken arm or a sprained wrist to keep up with their work activities.
Digital accessibility is mandated by many governments all around the world. In several countries it is a legal commitment as well. As already outlined, in the United States of America (USA), companies must adhere to the mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA compliance requires that public entities and businesses to provide accessible digital content to people with disabilities. Similarly, in California, companies must comply with the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which provides protection from discrimination by all enterprises in the state. At the same time, there are many standards for digital accessibility. The ones that are most widely used include:
Over the years, IT and software vendors have improved their ability to produce accessible content and services. To this direction, they usually apply some best practices that help them develop truly accessible content and services:
By following these best practices, companies can ensure that their digital content and services are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
Overall, digital accessibility is an important consideration in the design and development of digital products and services. By ensuring that digital content is accessible to everyone, we can create a more inclusive and equitable digital world. Companies must advocate for digitally accessible services to improve their brand image and social profile. However, investing on digital accessibility is not a matter of choice. It is a matter of being socially responsible and contributing to an inclusive society.
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