Scope’s Big Hack: Making the digital world better for disabled people

Lockdown has been a stressful time for disabled people, who are being hit hard by the effects of the pandemic. While lockdown begins to ease, many of the UK’s 14 million disabled people are still being locked out of the digital world.

Here at disability equality charity Scope, we are partnering with the tech industry through our Big Hack programme, encouraging businesses to put inclusive design at the heart of everything they do.

This week, we’ve launched a new campaign urging streaming services to improve their accessibility, and to be more transparent about how accessible they are.

Streaming and catch-up services can provide access to vital public health information and news, as well as the much-needed escapism we’ve all been relying on in lockdown.

Yet our research shows that many disabled people are feeling excluded by streaming platforms. A survey with more than 3,000 disabled people found four in five had experienced accessibility problems using streaming services. One in five disabled people told us they have cancelled or stopped using a streaming service because of accessibility issues, and two thirds feel either frustrated, let down, excluded or upset by inaccessible entertainment.

To highlight this, we created the first Inclusive League Table, showing how many big names are failing disabled customers.

After gathering data from the most popular services directly, we ranked each based on the percentage of content which had closed captions and audio descriptions and assessed its website accessibility.

Disney+, ITV Hub, All4 and BBC iPlayer received the highest scores, while Sky Go, Sky Store, Now TV and Google Play ranked poorly. Scope contacted each organisation at least twice, and platforms were marked down if they failed to respond.

The business case for inclusive design is huge. Analysis by Scope shows the current value of the purple pound - the spending power of disabled people and their families – is £274billion a year.

However, it’s the impact that inaccessible technology has on disabled people which we want businesses to understand.

Simon Wheatcroft, 38, has two young sons and is registered blind. He told us: “The hardest thing for me is when my young sons want to watch something which doesn’t have audio description.

“I don’t want to stop them from watching, but I feel like I’m missing out on those precious moments together.

“That can feel really isolating, especially at the moment during lockdown.”

Many of the most frustrating problems are inconsistencies, like not having captions or audio description on all episodes in a series. These kinds of issues make disabled people feel like an afterthought and excluded from modern-day conversations.

We want streaming platforms and other businesses to work with us to make sure disabled people can enjoy their services instead of feeling forgotten.

Scope’s Big Hack can support businesses to make their customer offer and workplace accessible.

Services we offer:

  • An audit of your digital products
  • Training on best practice accessibility
  • Access to our panel of disabled testers
  • Expert support in making your workplace accessible

Any businesses who would like to find out more can email BigHack@scope.org.uk.

About the author:

Krissie Barrick is Head of Digital Influencing at Scope. She leads on Scope’s flagship digital influencing programme: The Big Hack. Most tech isn't accessible, The Big Hack is fixing this. We are working with businesses to make sure they realise the value of accessibility and start to build products and services that work for disabled people.

 

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