Disability and accessibility - Does your organisation need an assisted user champion?

Is it necessary to have a disability champion at your organisation? While senior executives told CIO UK recently that Chief Information Officers have a responsibility to ensure internal and externally-facing technology is accessible to users with a disability who use a multitude of assistance software and called on IT vendors to build more accessibility into their systems, they said having a senior champion was not always the right strategy.

CIO at Natural Resources Wales, Martin Britton, and the Royal National Institute for the Blind's Neil Heslop, the organisation's assistive technology lead who is a part of the RNIB senior management team, said that "making this area somebody's job" could be a hindrance when it was the responsibility of the whole organisation.

However, Heslop said that it could be beneficial to a senior representative at the organisation to act as a catalyst for a more equal way of thinking.

"Having a disability champion depends on the maturity of the organisation in question," Heslop said.

"If at a very early stage in bringing this topic up the agenda then a specific champion is probably key, but more sophisticated IT departments further down the road will have successfully embedded the thinking in the DNA of how the team operate in which case making it "somebody's" job is unnecessary and on occasion unhelpful."

Britton said: "Unfortunately, issues such as these can sometimes be fairly low on the pecking order, particular when organisations are facing challenges such as public spending cuts. My job as champion is to ensure that these issues continue to be dealt with and the supporting processes are embedded as part of business as usual.

"Once again, the more senior the champion the more helpful it is, as in my case for example, I can use my position to remind colleagues to be mindful of these issues at all tiers of the organisation. It's not necessarily about campaigns or posters either - it's about embedding it as part of everyone's considerations on a day-to-day basis.

"Frankly, this needs to apply to all the nine protected characteristics too - I am also champion for the LGBT Network and Apprentice Champion - I feel other CIOs would benefit from engaging in wider issues such as these.  It helps your own understanding of a user's requirements."


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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