Making technology inclusive to drive business growth

There are two sides to the story of how technology has transformed human life. Although technology has enabled tremendous progress in many socio-economic spheres, it has not necessarily done everything fairly or equitably. Each technology invariably reflects the attitudes and values ​​of its creators. Most technologies are developed by a small segment of society, which improves efficiency but often exacerbates exclusion. Usually, it is the marginalized sections of the population – especially people with disabilities – who are affected. If we take a closer look, we will see that inclusion is often an afterthought in technology design, stemming from the idea of ​​“doing the right thing” or “making a difference”. As well-meaning as it sounds, it also carries subtle connotations of condescension and sympathy, which can, in fact, get in the way of inclusivity. And that poses problems.

The biggest problem with viewing disability as a rare anomaly is that it forces product/service developers to treat accessibility as an added feature rather than a core value proposition. This leads to biases and errors in their thinking and, inevitably, in product design. The truth is that disability is anything but rare. In India, nearly 26.8 million people suffer from some form of physical or mental disability.. Globally, more than one billion people, or almost 15% of the world’s population, fall into this category, making it the largest minority segment in the world.. The market for assistive technology for the disabled and elderly is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6% over the next six years and reach US$31.5 billion.. However, assistive technology is only one way to serve this customer segment.

The Case for Inclusiveness

Not everyone with a disability is born with it; in many cases, disability is caused by accidents, lifestyle issues or age. It affects their needs, but not their preferences – a nuance often missing from design processes. Today, the aging global population and its age-related disabilities pose significant challenges that must be considered in the design process of a product or service, from the very beginning.

It is clear that building inclusive technology can not only promote social good, but also drive business growth. The current approach to technology development leaves out people with disabilities at the conceptualization and product development stage. As a result, companies miss the opportunity to tap into a large customer base. The problem here is as much with the state of mind as with the method. To correct this, the industry must focus not on social conscience but on shared growth; he must replace condescension with collaboration. Creating inclusive processes, cultures and philosophies can help companies turn opportunity into success. So where can they start?

Redefining processes for inclusive results

  • Design for inclusiveness

The journey of building inclusive technology begins with the design process. By designing products for users across the full spectrum of capabilities, companies can gain valuable insights to guide future iterations. It’s not enough to create mobile or desktop products first; the goal should be to create products and services that also prioritize inclusiveness. Accessibility should be considered essential and intuitive, like any other function.

Instilling diversity in design should start with building diverse teams. The design process should be reviewed to identify user blind spots, so that design teams can then engage with people who can offer suggestions for solving them. It is crucial to design “with” and not just “for” the people you are trying to serve. A diversely-grounded team will also improve the level of creativity and the quality of discussion in the design process, leading to more relevant, scalable, and accessible products capable of delivering exceptional experiences for all users.

  • The characteristics of inclusive technology

Once you have broadened your definition of users and the notion of accessibility, how can you verify that your product or service is indeed inclusive? For one, you can check the legislation of your location. In the United States, that would be the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There are also frameworks such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which provide location-independent accessibility guidelines for web design. Accessibility design isn’t just about compliance; it is crucial to provide an excellent user experience.

A fundamental change in philosophy

Building for inclusiveness requires a fundamental shift in philosophy. Businesses need to serve customers who demand and are willing to pay for high quality products and services. It’s a win-win situation; a relationship based on growth and mutual benefit. At a time when most businesses face the challenge of growing in a highly competitive and fragmented industry, creating more inclusive and accessible products can pave the way for success. The world increasingly celebrates diversity. Businesses need to understand that inclusivity and accessibility is as much about good business as it is about good conscience.



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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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