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Global Trends and the Impact on Prosperity

The digital revolution and the social rights movement are disrupting the traditional business models, and having an impact on the way we interact with machines and each other. These two global trends are rapidly merging together to form a new era of artificial inteligence that will enable all people to share in the economic prosperity. As organizations become more diverse and more automated, business leaders struggle in making effective decisions with accurate and current information. The driving forces behind rapid societal changes are shaping cultural attitudes and business strategies, but only those who understand the global trends will remain competitive and sustain market growth. The combination of technology and social innovation has created a new context for social change that makes solving complex problems possible. There has never been a more promising time to be involved in social change PAUL KLEIN, Globe and Mail, August 22, 2017.

Business reports show that companies fail largely due to two causes. First, System-Blindness, where companies have allowed automation to take over business processes and have isolated employees and disconnected customers from real people interaction. Second, Cultural-Arrogance, Where management have ignored global trends and have concentrated decision making power while overlooking employee talent. Building a diverse employee base, strong customer relationships, and a user-centric workplace is required for future success. If you are looking to build a new web or mobile presence, scale your technology communications infrastructure, expand your market base with improved online customer experiences, optimize communication systems networking, or overcome unique business challenges, then engage your business leaders in building a digital inclusion strategy that will remove systemic barriers.

Governments around the world are legislating Digital Accessibility Laws, but more importantly consumers are demanding a better user experience. Consumers will favour those organizations that adopt a user centred design strategy. Users desire flexibility that allows a wide diversity of user devices, and a responsive interface that customizes the style and format for their environment. Ignoring this trend will expose the organization to the threat and cost of litigation, public relations issues, and loss of government contracts. technologies have transformed how business operates, how people manage their purchasing and finances, find and carry out jobs, access public services and participate in communities, and how they experience learning, culture, leisure, social networking and entertainment. However, digital inclusion demands that everyone has the potential to be engaged with the economy and society. Investing in accessible and usable technology products and services, workplace environments and facilities opens up new markets, increases productivity and liberates talent, and enables innovation.

Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed into law in 2005. the purpose of this Act is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025. The AODA is Ontario's economic growth strategy, by raising the social behaviour expectations, in response to the shifting global cultural attitudes toward greater acceptance of persons with disabilities.

Although most organizations want to do the right thing, each has a unique culture and business leaders that understand the effect of global trends will take the time to shape enterprise cultural values. Is the business case, of your organization, for disability based on legal compliance or inclusion best practices? Does management view the AODA enforcement as a business burden or a growth strategy? Do your software developers believe universal accessibility requirements introduce operational challenges or business opportunities? These are just some of the questions that business leaders must ask in order to close the gap of understanding between perception and reality. Providing accessible and usable technologies, that is fundamental to an organisation's core business objectives, must be clearly communicated by the senior business leaders to all employees, suppliers and partners.

First, does your organization culture view a disability as a normal human condition that is to be accepted, or as a problem to be avoided and accommodated? In recent years, there has been an important paradigm shift affecting the development of new legislation and policies concerning persons with disabilities, from segregation to integration, from institutionalization to mainstreaming, from the medical model of disability being viewed as a condition to be treated, to the social model of disability focusing on the removal of disabling barriers in the environment that hinder full participation in society. The challenge of the corporate enterprise of the future is to find a sustainable balance between the measurable growth and quality of life. Create a Diversity Maturity Model, that measures employee perceptions, business processes and the organizational climate, to track progress in building a more inclusive environment.

Second, accessibility is a measurement of productivity not disability, enabling all people to be productive and satisfied with or without a disability. Accessibility no longer means compliance. It has become a mainstream requirement that can transform the business. Therefore every part of the organisation should be involved in creating a holistic strategy for embedding accessibility across various aspects of the entire enterprise (from processes to product development to the culture) in order to better manage compliance, improve the user experience on any device, and create an inclusive workplace environment. A challenge for all users is finding the information they want on websites and web pages that contain lot of information that they don't want. In general, the Web tends to present information in a way that overwhelms most users. Cognitive considerations for visualization, text simplification, and the interface design, are important for making Web content more approachable, readable, and digestible.

In conclusion, disability issues and accessibility inclusion has an impact on all people, and your organization cannot afford the business risks associated with ignoring these global trends. Usable Accessibility is the deficit gap between the capabilities of the user and the communication System capabilities. The goal is to bridge the Accessibility Gap, through good Design, that will create the best possible interoperability of System components to achieve the desired User experience. That is, there is an essential partnership of interoperability between business units, project life cycles, and people engagement in delivering high quality products and services. Good design, from new product development to business operations and company branding, requires investment over time and commitment from organizational leaders in order to deliver significant returns. The 2010 Martin Prosperity Institute study, Releasing Constraints, finds that improving inclusivity and accessibility in Ontario will accelerate the growth of prosperity in the province, by increased efficiency, productivity, and creation of new intellectual property enhancing the province's global competitiveness.

Consider the following actions to get your organization on the road to greater prosperity.

  1. Establish an executive accessibility champion, who has the authority to influence business decisions and shape cultural values. An integrated accessibility strategy, that clearly defines expectations for accessibility standards (WCAG) and legal compliance requirements (AODA), must come from the top of the organization and be understood and valued at all levels. This takes a deliberate act, and will not happen by chance.
  2. Establish accessibility policies and procedures that streamline processes throughout the organization. Everything from procurement to marketing, including human resources and communication technology services, must have a common understanding of the accessibility expectations. Usable accessibility will improve work productivity and employment opportunities.
  3. Establish external partnerships with accessibility training providers and user groups. The outcome is that disabled and elderly customers feel valued, welcomed, anticipated and accommodated when using your accessible products and services. For the most part, research and development, has been driven by the disability community, and if you want to know what emerging innovations will be mainstream in fives years from now, then look to the disabled community. In the mid 1970's blind people were starting to use optical character recognition, speech synthesis and GPS navigation, which all are now mainstream. In 2007 Apple produced the first fully accessible smart phone based on the user experience design. Today, the federal government is in the process of crafting a Canadians with Disabilities Act, that will demand your attention in the near future.

David Best, Accessibility Information Technology Specialist

Helping organizations to increase productivity and market growth through innovation and collaboration.


This blog is curated by the AEBC, but welcomes contributions from members and non-members alike. The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in the Blind Canadians Blog are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the AEBC, its members, or any of its donors and partners.