Making Technology Available To Everyone

We are living in times when technology is reshaping everything, from how we operate in the workplace to creating a global economy that is knowledge based. But with workplace operations in flux and a shift toward a knowledge-based economy, there is a greater requirement for accessibility, collaboration, communication, and mobility – with accessibility being the crucial element in attracting business.

Accessible technology is allowing each computer user to address his or her personal needs, whether due to limitations caused by aging, language and learning impairments, or physical disabilities. Having this technology is a win-win situation for business as it serves the customer, helps the employee, and maintains good relations with partners.

According to the results of a study commissioned by Microsoft, between 2003 and 2004, 57% of computer users 18-64 years old would benefit from using accessible technology. Even though the participants did not admit to having any diminished abilities, Forrester research found that one out of five experience hearing issues, one out of four experience pains in wrists and/or hands and one out of four experience problems with vision. According to another source, almost one in seven of the world’s population has some type of learning disability.

The fact that our global population is growing older and working longer is requiring our technology to become more accessible as well. Countries like Japan will have 30% of its workforce over the age of 65 by 2020. By 2018, more than one fifth of the United States’ working population will be over 55, and by 2050, 45% of the European workforce will be 65 years or older.

With technology being more accessible, businesses can retain older employees who might otherwise have to retire due to age related issues. Additionally, businesses can recruit employees with physical disabilities thus proving that they have everyone’s best interest at heart  –  creating loyalty among customers and employees.

Microsoft addresses six different impairments or disabilities – age related, hearing, language, learning, mobility and vision. They also show how to access the means to make computer usage more user friendly. With each of these issues Microsoft has given a list of recommendations: Everything from changing the size of text and icons, to having a screen reader or braille printer, to making the mouse and keyboard optional for computer use.

With the help of Microsoft, experts at technical centers and in occupational therapy can get the advice and training needed to address current disabilities and plan for the future. Age does not have to be a barrier to continuing one’s career, or choosing a pastime involving technology. These are exciting times for young and old alike. Technology clearly is helping change the definition of what is means to be a senior or disabled.