Global user experience (UX) agency Sigma has called for UK digital and technology sectors to improve the inclusion and accessibility of its products and services, saying it's a "moral and commercial imperative".
Sigma has been hosting the Camp Digital conference in Manchester, and will host a workshop tomorrow for London Tech Week on the necessity of creating digital products - such as websites, mobile apps and software - accessible to all users, and users who are often left out of the design process. This can include partially sighted people, people with neuro-diversity (such as dyslexia or the autistic spectrum), hearing loss, elderly people who suffer impairments, those with mobility or cognitive impairment (such as epilepsy), manual dexterity problems and those with learning disabilities.
Sigma managing director Hilary Stephenson wrote an open letter online which has already garnered support from The Molly Watt Trust (set up to assist and improve the lives of those with Usher Syndrome), but she’s hoping for a lot more.
"There is a misconception in the industry that making products 'accessible' means adding additional components but this is not the case. Those elements, which make services accessible, have the same benefits for everyone else," she says.
"At Sigma, we believe we can all try harder to be more inclusive from the start of any digital project. More than ever before, the need to deliver accessible digital products and services constitutes both a moral and a commercial imperative and something which urgently requires more forces as the population continues to live longer and get older."
There are currently more than 10 million disabled people in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. This represents around 15 percent of the entire population, and it’s expected to rise.
Hilary says when Sigma works with companies, it advises to build a website "for the 5 percent". This way, websites will be accessible to those living with a disability, but simultaneously will cater, if not make it easier to navigate, for the other 95 percent without a disability.
For more tips on this, we have an in-depth guide to UX and design approaches that benefit people with visual impairment and disabled people. The guide explores where web interfaces struggle to cater to people with disabilities, what steps can be taken and what organisation to turn to for further testing and advice.
Response to Sigma's call to action at Camp Digital was positive. According to Sigma, it showed an industry open to improving the inclusiveness of UX for everyone, but more companies need to "step forward and make this commitment official".
Hilary hopes continued pledged commitment from industry organisations will follow in the coming weeks. Sigma is encouraging companies to get in touch about what they're doing to encourage a more inclusive approach, and these updates can be shared to encourage a "community of good practise".
Sigma is a UX specialist group based in Sweden with offices across the globe. It focuses on research, design, building, optimising and support around digital products and services, with a focus on improving usability. Clients include Sport England, University of Brighton and North Wales Police.