By Claire West
Plans to improve public websites, upgrade IT equipment and provide better online content to suit the needs of disabled people were unveiled by Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey today.
Launching the eAccessibility Plan, the Minister announced a package of measures that will contribute to a more inclusive digital economy for people with specific needs.
Ed Vaizey said:
“A successful digital economy can only be achieved if everyone can enjoy the same advantages that technology offers, like access to public services, online shopping and banking, interactive games and social media.
“The market already provides options to suit different disabilities but making use of these technologies can still be difficult, and expensive. Our eAccessibility Plan will help ensure that the UK offers better online opportunities and access to equipment and software for people with disabilities.”
The key objectives of the plan include:
Improving technology and digital equipment to suit the needs of those with disabilities and tackling issues of affordability and availability of equipment (television, radio, computer) and software (such as Braille embossers, light signallers and screen readers);
Implementing a new regulatory framework to enable OFCOM to specify measures to ensure disabled people have equivalent choice and access to digital communications services as non-disabled consumers;
Improving the design of public sector websites to make them more accessible to disabled users;
Making previously inaccessible online and television content accessible to disabled users, such as e-books for those with a visual impairment; and
Promoting awareness of the issues facing disabled groups in the digital economy to achieve a more inclusive society.
The plan will be implemented by the eAccessibility Forum, a group of over 60 experts from Government, industry and the voluntary sector who will work to explore issues surrounding e-accessibility so that better and more inclusive services can be developed for both business and consumer benefit.
The Action Plan will be a ‘live document’ updated quarterly to incorporate new developments and monitor progress. The aim is to reach a step-change in eAccessibility by the time of the Olympics and Paralympics in summer 2012.