What is ICT accessibility?
This section provides a brief explanation of ICT accessibility and gives examples of the types of accessibility features that enable persons with disabilities and older people to use technology.
An accessible ICT product or service is one which can be used by all its intended users, taking into account their differing capabilities. A person's ability to use technology may be impaired due to various physical, sensory, emotional or cognitive disabilities.
One common example of an accessibility feature is the small tactile node, or “dot”, found on the “5” key on most keypads for computers, telephones and self-service terminals. (Check to see if the keyboard in front of you has one.) By finding the “5” key by touch, anyone can locate the other numeric keys without looking.
Someone who is blind may not be able to see text on a website – someone who is deaf may not be able to hear voices or sounds in a video – someone who uses a wheelchair may not be able to reach the coin-slot on a ticket machine.
In all these examples, it is entirely possible to design the technology so that persons with disabilities can use it.
Accessibility is defined as the:
“extent to which products, systems, services, environments and facilities can be used by people from a population with the widest range of characteristics and capabilities to achieve a specified goal in a specified context of use” (ISO TC 159).
For many modern technologies and in many contexts of use, ICTs can be designed and developed to meet the needs of all users. The accessibility requirements defined in this Toolkit specify how this can be achieved.
In the context of this Procurement Toolkit, the definition of accessibility provided above can be narrowed to an expression and objective measure of the degree to which a proposed ICT solution or service is conformant with a set of functional accessibility requirements and their related tests, as specified by the EN standard.
Examples of accessible ICT
The following 3 examples show how accessible ICTs can provide equitable access for persons with disabilities.
Office computers. An employee with a profound motor impairment may use a range of assistive technologies to use the same software applications as his colleagues. Examples of these could include a head pointer to select keys on a keyboard or speech recognition software for dictating text. Whatever the assistive technology used, it is essential that accessibility is specified during the procurement of both the computer operating system and the software applications.
Self-service terminals. Self-service terminals such as banking or ticketing machines can incorporate many design features that make them more usable and accessible for all people. For example a screen that has a sufficiently high level of luminance so as to be easily viewable and readable by a wheelchair user or person of lower stature will also be easier to view by all users in bright ambient light conditions such as sunshine.
Subtitles. Subtitles within any kind of multimedia files or TV programmes make the content easier to understand for hard of hearing and deaf people, but also for people watching TV in noisy environments, and even people with low level of command in a specific language.
Types of accessible ICTs
The accessibility requirements contained in this Procurement Toolkit relate primarily to the accessibility of mainstream technologies. These include hardware such as computers, printers, telephones and self–service terminals and systems such as operating systems, web applications, application software and cloud-computing.
Other types of accessible ICTs include:
- assistive technologies (AT), such as hearing aids, text-to-speech readers and large-key keyboards that can enable a person to interact with or use a particular ICT. A primary consideration in the procurement of ICT is that the product or service is interoperable with the AT that people are likely to use with it.
- accessible formats include Braille, large print, high-contrast print, easy-to-read, plain language and electronic formats such as HTML and PDF that can be made accessible with additional effort.