19 May 2022
by David Crowther

Rooting accessibility in services

David Crowther, Senior Project Manager at Micro Focus looks at why accessibility is needed within the early stages of the software development cycle.

This year we celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The day was created to start the discussion and get people thinking and learning about digital accessibility and inclusion.

Here are some statistics that you might find interesting:

  • Over 1 billion people in the world live with some sort of a disability - that is 15% of the world’s population or nearly one in seven people.
  • Over 253 million people are affected by some form of blindness or visual impairment. That is more than 3% of the world’s population - three times the population of Germany!
  • 466 million people have disabling deafness or hearing loss. This represents 6% of the world’s population - almost seven times the population of the UK.
  • About 200 million people have an intellectual disability or 2.6% of the world’s population. This is more than all the inhabitants of Brazil!
  • One in every four people currently are (or will become) a caregiver to someone with a disability.

Disabilities can impact people any time during their life due to accidents, disease, or age. "Almost everyone will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life" said Margaret Chan, Head of the World Health Organization.

As a technology community, we have the opportunity and requirement to build accessibility into our products, solutions, apps, websites, documentation, portals and processes to make sure they are usable by everyone, including those with disabilities.  Because of the numerous types of disabilities, technology companies need to understand and be proficient in handling all of the accessibility best practices available. For example, implementing the requirements needed to enable a screen reader to accurately read back the contents of a page, does not provide the design elements necessary for a user that struggles with color blindness.

Accessibility needs to be moved to the planning stage of the software development cycle. It is much easier to consider the user story that requires a font to be dramatically enlarged on a page as you are planning the initial user interface.  Providing the feature for the text size to be increased will enable a user with a specific visual disability to simply read the words on a page.  If you don't consider this requirement up front, major UI changes may be required after the product ships.

Customers are also getting more specific in their requirements with regards to accessibility compliance from the companies they purchase from. Some ask for contractual agreements, while others request the appropriate documentation detailing adherence to various accessibility standards.

The most common standard available is the Web Content and Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which was approved as an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 40500).  WCAG was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative at w3.org. Current WCAG guidelines are at version 2.1 with version 2.2 success criteria scheduled to be finalized by September 2022.  A new working draft of WCAG v3.0 is in progress and expects to be relevant to web content, apps, tools, publishing, and emerging technologies on the web.

WCAG guidelines are incorporated as sub-chapters of the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) required to sell into the US Government and the EN 301 549 European Standard for digital accessibility required by some European customers. Additional laws/regulations have been passed or are being considered such as the European Accessibility Act (EAA), and Accessible Canada Act, and other countries are considering additional legislation around the world.

Customer's will continue to evolve their environmental and social governance standards to ensure the products they purchase and the vendors they do business with will provide accessible technology.

Accessibility then becomes a strategic imperative. This allows companies to comply with worldwide governmental regulations and adhere to customer/partner requirements. But more importantly, creating inclusive and accessible technology is simply the right thing to do.


David Crowther

David Crowther

Senior Project Manager, Micro Focus

David Crowther works in the Office of the CTO at Micro Focus and is the Accessibility Program Lead. He also chairs the truABILITY Employee Resource Group focused on raising awareness, providing support and advocating for those with disabilities.