Disabled people face 'digital divide'
Published on 20 September 2013 12:00 PM
Disabled people face a ‘digital divide' with mainstream technology rarely customised for those with additional needs, charities have warned.
Disability charity Scope and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design warn that a large proportion of the UK's 11 million disabled people still have to choose between expensive specialist equipment and inaccessible mainstream gadgets like smartphones and tablets.
Researchers for the two organisations have found that technology designed for disabled people is often expensive and has low functionality, while mainstream products such as iPads are rarely customised for individuals with additional needs.
'Modern technology has the potential to transform disabled people's lives - but first we need to get past the digital divide,' said Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes.
'If you are disabled, you are still often stuck between a rock and a hard place. You can spend a fortune on specialist technology, or you can buy the devices that we all use, like iPads and tablets, which are affordable but often inaccessible and hard to adapt.'
Both Scope and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design want to see mainstream devices made more accessible to people with disabilities.
Although some progress has been made in recent years, they claim there is still huge untapped potential for these devices to support disabled people better.
Apple, for instance, has been building accessibility and adaptability features into its devices as standard, therefore making them easier to use for individuals with a disability.
However, Ross Atkin, research associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design - endowed by the Helen Hamlyn Trust charity - claims there is a long way to go to make mainstream technology more accessible.
'There is much more work to do to ensure that all disabled people can benefit from affordable, powerful, enabling technology and are able to use it to access the digital services essential to increasing their independence,' he said.
The research, funded by BT's Connected Society programme, also found that emphasis needs to be placed on improving the information available to disabled people about enabling technology.
Copyright Press Association 2013