Disability and the digital divide

Explore the digital accessibility gap with this new blog from Good Things' Policy and Advocacy Assistant, Urko Beltran de Guevara.

In our increasingly digital world, individuals living with disabilities face limitations in accessing digital services. The recent House of Lords report rang alarm bells, but the government response fell flat. We urgently need action to bridge the accessibility gap and ensure digital opportunities for all.

The recent rail ticket closures reveal the real-life challenges faced by individuals living with disabilities in accessing online services. In this case, poor software accessibility and staffing levels threaten social isolation, as well as social and economic mobility. Inaccessible technology severely limits what people with disabilities can do independently. Digital exclusion has real repercussions; we need action to address the divide. 

To fix the digital divide, Good Things has been championing digital inclusion and supporting many – including disability groups – through the hubs in our National Digital Inclusion Network.

Digital Inclusion Hubs use peer-to-peer support to empower disabled people with skills and confidence. Good Things also offer free resources such as our disability handbook and accessibility and inclusion guidance to help organisations beyond our Network – such as businesses and public bodies – to write and design accessible content.

From the Network to the digital skills platform Learn My Way, Good Things uplifts those with disabilities to navigate the digital landscape independently. 

Amidst our efforts, we must underscore the importance of the European Accessibility Act (EAA). As of earlier this year, whether you are a public body providing services to people in the EU or a private organisation selling services or products in the EU, the EEA states you must provide the same level of accessibility.

Digital services now adhere to accessibility standards to guarantee accessibility as a central part of the design process. This requirement is pivotal in advancing digital inclusion, as it ensures that all digital services, irrespective of their origin, adhere to accessibility standards, making them usable for a wider audience, including those with disabilities.  Most UK businesses have not adopted it, but companies should note that innovation and inclusivity in digital services have grown across Schengen due to this new legislation.

The EEA is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to future-proof their companies and take action to bridge the accessibility gap.

In 2023, businesses face multiple challenges; the EEA could be a means to tackle them. Reports detail supply chain, customer base, and workforce issues. But in the face of uncertainty, there is also opportunity. Our research shows that for every pound invested in digital inclusion, there is £9.48 ROI. EEA could give your business a competitive edge, opening up your company to a whole new workforce, diversifying your employee background, and opening up a new market of consumers.

While becoming more inclusive, your company will also become more innovative. From audiobooks to screen reading, history shows us that disability inclusion drives innovation. Tech designed for disabled people can break into the mainstream and become a crucial source of revenue. Adopting the EEA would ensure digital opportunities for those living with disabilities and your business. 

Finally, digital inclusion is also a path toward social responsibility, accountability, and resiliency. By adopting the EEA, businesses would be putting disability at the heart of their digital services and celebrating diversity. Your company will be sending a clear message. All the while, future-proofing your company with an expanded customer base, increased reputation, and greater employee diversity. 

Let’s celebrate differences and champion the right of every person to access digital services, no matter their background.

Urko Beltran de Guevara

Policy and Advocacy Assistant

Urko plays a crucial role at Good Things Foundation, significantly strengthening its impact in policy-making and advocacy. His work, typically involving in-depth research and strategic engagement with policymakers, is underscored by an unwavering commitment to promoting digital inclusion.