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Accessibility News

High-tech items should be accessible

Nov 2, 2004
By JERRY WOLFFE Of The Daily Oakland Press

The National Council on Disabled Monday called upon the designers and manufacturers of electronic and information technology to incorporate universal design processes in their products.

The Council's report "Design for Inclusion: Creating a New Marketplace," analyzed six product lines from the telecommunications, software, consumer electronics and digital services industry for accessibility. These included ATMs, cell phones, distance learning, personal digital assistants, televisions and voice recognition software.

"People with disabilities want to use the same products that everyone else uses," said Lex Frieden, NCD chairperson. "They do not want to be limited to specialized products that are more costly. Implementation of universal design is the best way to satisfy this desire of the disabled while also providing more cost-effective products for all users."

He said products and services that come closer to accommodating a variety of physical and cognitive differences will benefit both users and companies.

Universal design is a process to ensure that electronic and information technology is inclusive, accessible, and usable by everyone, Frieden said.

Key findings of the study included:

  • Users with disabilities are often asked to pay high prices for products with features that are not usable by them;
  • Rapid changes in technology often cause decreases in accessibility;
  • Users are reluctant to adopt technologies that have proven frustrating in the past;
  • And, accessibility solutions must consider the needs of the disabled.

The study concluded that substantial increases in accessibility will be required before increased sales to members of the disability community are realized.