Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2020
Written by Omar Taleb
Since its inception in 2009, the third Thursday of May has been celebrated as Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which advocates for digital inclusion and promotes accessibility. With approximately one billion people living with an impairment, the tech sector can no longer afford to discount the needs of those with disabilities.
At the Legal Innovation Zone, the concept of design thinking is regularly discussed. Design thinking provides a solutions-based approach to problems, and for our startups, it begins with understanding the user. The core of design thinking is the people behind the product or service, and the people using them; this human-centric approach to idea generation makes it a natural starting point for advocates of digital accessibility.
MinuteBox is one startup here at the LIZ that really incorporated accessibility while conceptualizing their service, which acts as a cloud-based corporate management tool that digitizes minute books for law firms.
Addressing visual impairments – light and dark modes are supported, which works to the benefit of legal professionals who spend a significant portion of the day working on a screen. Font sizes can also be adjusted for those who are hard of seeing, and the company has ensured that its code can be understood by assistive devices, such as screen readers.
In terms of physically navigating the software, the platform supports keyboard shortcuts that assist individuals with fine motor-skill limitations or repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) linked to computer mouse usage. MinuteBox goes so far as to run internal tests for colour combinations that may fall into the colour-blindness spectrum, allowing the team the chance to fine-tune the software and ensure those impacted by colour vision deficiency are accommodated for.
While these may not cross the minds of able-bodied users, these adjustments to the interface reduce usage barriers and ultimately widens the scope of potential users. It relates back to design thinking in the entrepreneur’s ability to place themselves in the perspective of different types of users, and building their products or services accordingly.
Entrepreneurs are in the business of innovation, they are trendsetters who take on challenges because they believe they can disrupt the status quo for the better. GAAD serves as a reminder for the startup world that where legacy companies have historically overlooked people with impairments, entrepreneurs are in a position to ensure that the widely adopted technology, products, and services of the future are designed to be inclusive.