Businesses are in danger of losing market share by failing to design more digitally inclusive websites, with four million disabled people having never been online, says charity for disabled digital inclusion Go ON Gold.
Go ON Gold's national campaign, co-chaired by digital champion Martha Lane Fox, was launched ahead of the Paralympics with the aim of helping disabled people get online.
The charity said 43% of disabled people in the UK have never accessed the internet because of design barriers or because they may be unaware of advances in technology that can make access easier.
Go ON Gold aims to train 1,000 digital champions in the use of accessible technology, as well as encouraging businesses, organisations and policy makers to become more aware of the needs of disabled people. As part of the campaign it will offer one-to-one advice, and guidance for developers building websites or apps for all kinds of organisations.
RNIB chairman and Go ON Gold spokesperson Kevin Carey said IT systems need to become less clunky, as they often create unnecessary barriers for disabled people.
“Most of the systems have got too complex as they were originally developed by mainframe engineers, for example you have to log on every time you use a system," said Carey. "There’s a whole load of clutter when using IT.
“Another example is when I got to a free Wi-Fi hotspot I have to create an account, even when it's free, instead of just being provided with the internet.”
Businesses should design websites that are simple enough to work on mobile phones, he said.
Making websites more inclusive could improve organisations' revenues, he said.
“You can’t put clag on a mobile phone site – sites should be designed so they are incrementally enriched. Because the end point of a website is that you want someone from the other end to consume something,” Carey said.
“This will be the most high-profile Paralympics ever and will show the range of things disabled people can do – we want that message to go across from the sporting world to the information world.”
Martha Lane Fox said: “Disability often leads to a lack of independence and social isolation.
"Full access to the internet can be hugely empowering and even transformative for people with disabilities, whose mobility may be compromised or who lack the resources to get out and about as much as they would like.”
Photo courtesy of Adrian8_8, flickr