Citizen Access to Digital Information [Mind the Gap]

AbilityNet have published a new strategy for digital inclusion. Written by Nigel Lewis, the paper makes the following points:

1. “There is an urgent need to address the growing gap between what technology enables some people to do, and the barriers that others face when trying to complete the same digital tasks.”

This same gap has moved beyond being primarily a social issue, seeking equality for those with disabilities or the elderly, it has become an economic issue as well due to our increasingly self-service age.

2. “Current strategies  underestimate the prevalence and depth of the problems faced by people with physical, learning and cognitive disabilities. This will affect the way we design and deliver all digital systems, and the assumptions we make about the savings we can make when implementing those systems.”

Of those who are not online in the UK, the greatest proportion are older or else have a disability. Furthermore the growing elderly population will acquire impairments as they grow older and are even less likely to become users of current technologies.

3.”Creating assistive support is a moving target. The client base will need regular and sustained help to keep engaged with the digital gap. Not only will the nature of the devices and services continue to evolve rapidly but the learning and  cognitive disabilities and health conditions are often progressive and require continued support.”


Lewis puts forward a core set of  six practices that could be built into all operating systems and service interfaces to make steps towards helping technologies become more inclusive:

1. Text to speech (converting computer text into spoken word)

2. Speech to text (converting spoken word into computer text)

3. Magnification (ability to increase the size of words on a screen)

4. Interface configuration (in-built facility to enable text size and colour preferences)

5. Task intelligence (ability to make sense of complex requests for action eg: calendar reminder for a specific event)

6.Location services (ability to link to other smarter devices and relay information about device location)