19/11/2012 05:45 GMT | Updated 18/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Making the Digital World Accessible to Everyone

In the digital world of the internet design is everything. Design strips away, cuts to the core of purpose and functionality, and takes us to the very limits of our imagined potential. The best design is simple. It makes a democracy of the web, putting this powerful communication tool at the disposal of everyone with an internet connection.


But truly accessible, supported by simple and effective design concepts, is still on the fringes of thinking when it comes to the digital world. As Simon Norris at Nomensa, an accessibility consultancy, stated in a blog post, 'The digital world allows us to raise the game in terms of inclusion because it provides a quicker and more cost-effective method for delivering a better product or service than can be achieved in the physical world.'


Recite, an accessibility software company, and Nomensa, a digital design agency, are fighting the same corner when it comes to ensuring accessibility and web design work together. Recite converts text into speech, making any website open to those with dyslexia, visual impairment or learning difficulties. Other bolt-on services can interfere with the user experience for everyone. Which is clearly not ideal, and is therefore something which puts off most web managers.

In comparison to the UK, Australia is well out in front when it comes to this matter. Greater levels of economic prosperity has meant that more organisations (government and corporations) have been able to maintain a near pre-recession level of IT investment. One area they have continued to put money into is accessibility. Recite, which is based in Newcastle, has already won a contract with a local council in the State of Victoria. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) supports the ambitions of tech startups, making it possible to undertake trade missions, which in turn creates jobs and investment for some of our most innovative companies.

Despite the internet being a universal means of communication, and visual impairment and dyslexia affecting hundreds of millions worldwide, this subject only receives sporadic attention in the media. In the UK alone there are six million affected by dyslexia. A few high profile websites got sued by individuals, or charities, like the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB). BMI Baby in the UK, and Netflix in the US, and in 2000, the Olympic National Committee in Australia all got sued over the websites being inaccessible. Facebook took action for its now 1 billion strong user-base back in 2009, with the assistance and guidance of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).

In America, the film director, James Redford, and some members of Congress, are attempting to bring more attention to this issue with the launch of the award winning movie, 'The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.' At the end of the day that is what is needed to ensure the internet is accessible to everyone: decisive action taken by a combination of advocates, companies and governments. In The Guardian, David Mortimer, Head of Digital Inclusion for Age UK, brings us back to the simple point that "So much of life can be enhanced by being online. Having access to a full broad range of society means accessing that online."