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The Importance of Digital Accessibility

Today, Thursday, May 18, 2017, marks the 6th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The purpose of GAAD is to get people who work with digital technologies—web, mobile, software, etc.—to think and learn about the importance of accessible technologies and different disabilities.

My husband is blind, and I have a few blind friends (and deaf friends), so digital accessibility is something that is very near and dear to me. But if you don’t know anyone who’s visually impaired, it can often be difficult to grasp just why digital accessibility is important.

So, first, some statistics:

324 million people are blind or visually impaired. To put that in perspective, that’s 1 in 22 people.

360 million people are hard of hearing of deaf. Or, 1 in 20.

720 million people have dyslexia. That means 1 in 10 people.

When you add all of that up, these numbers mean that 1 in 7 people—1 billion total—have some sort of disability.

Contrary to some popular beliefs and misconceptions, those who are blind and/or deaf lead full, productive lives. And a lot of them do so through the use of accessible technologies such as screen readers and closed captioning, as can be seen in the below video.

Apple’s done a great job integrating screen reading technology into their products with VoiceOver, which is a part of every single Apple device. That being said, on the app side of things, there’s still some room for improvement.

“I use an iPhone,” said Laurie Alice Eakes, a writer who also happens to be blind. “Love it most of the time. I think Apple does a great job with VoiceOver. The problem lies in developers of third-party apps.”

According to Eakes (and my husband), there are some apps that simply don’t work with VoiceOver and are rendered completely useless to anyone who uses a screen reader. Another common complaint is that apps will one day work perfectly with VoiceOver, and then once updated will lose functionality so that the things users were able to do yesterday they can’t do today.

“I love that I can use an iPhone and Apple Watch straight out of the box and don’t have to pay extra for it,” said Phillip Gross, who has used screen reader technology for over 20 years. “Voice recognition could be better, as it often misses words, but on the plus side, there are many things I couldn't do before that I can do now. For instance, I can FaceTime you [Aubrey] and ask you what something in the pantry or refrigerator is. There are apps that will tell me what color something is. Uber makes a big difference unless you live in Austin, but there are still things like Fasten. It makes a big difference to have a notetaker that I can carry in my pocket that is compatible with something that everybody else uses.”

Eakes agrees.

“I feel much closer to normal being able to do the same things as other people, even texting or sharing something on Facebook or Twitter,” Eakes said. “Even my pictures are not terrible.”

Here at Kony, we’re obviously in the business of enabling the development of apps, whether enterprises do that on their own with the Kony Platform or have us build a custom app through AppVantage™. And throughout all of our products, accessibility is something we definitely take into consideration.

“In today’s digitally transforming world, it is critically important that content is consumable by anyone,” said Kony’s Chief Technology Officer Bill Bodin. “Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we encourage all to ensure that the data, apps, and solutions you produce can flow seamlessly over all digital channels and devices…and be optimally delivered and consumed by all. At Kony, we believe content must work in concert with the app platform, devices, and the accessibility features of the underlying operating systems. This is something we think about every day.”

How do you ensure the accessibility of your digital content?

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