Companies that address accessibility needs in their IT product development are better positioned to leverage those same assistive technologies to mass market solutions, says Gartner.
Gartner says people with disabilities (PWD) are an underserved market segment with one billion people worldwide. They and their immediate friends and family have an annual disposable income of more than US$8 trillion.
With the trend toward more human-centric design, accessibility and overall usability for the largest percentage will become more important.
"People with disabilities make up 15 per cent of the world 's population and some of the assistive technology marketed to people with disabilities can also be sold to the other 85 per cent of the population that is ‘situationally disabled’ by their environmental conditions, at work and at play," says Andrew Johnson, managing vice president, Gartner.
"Every day situational disabilities include listening to a conference call in a noisy airport, or using a mobile phone while driving or while wearing gloves. In many cases, assistive technology features will not only help mitigate common environmental factors, but can be used as the foundation to improve security and enhance privacy for everyone.
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"Additionally, businesses that create a workplace environment that is accessible for PWD can realise increased productivity from non-disabled employees. Assistive tools by definition are designed to improve the work environment. Some employers fear that accommodating PWD will result in high accommodation costs, but evidence does not support these fears," says Johnson.
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"Assistive technology" refers to products and services used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. It includes hardware, software and peripherals that assist PWD in accessing computers or other information technologies, at home and in the workplace. These include keyboards with large keys, screen-reader software that reads text on a phone or a computer screen, software that enlarges screen content, and products such as a text telephone.
Three basic approaches to the PWD market
Customised solutions narrowly targeted to specific PWD types
Companies using this approach are usually smaller, have dedicated product development efforts and use resellers that focus on the PWD market. Assistive technology is their core business that might limit opportunities to the larger market but allows them to achieve their organizational goal of innovating for the PWD market.
Mass-market solutions positioned with side benefits to PWD
Companies using this approach are usually larger, leverage existing features, tweak messaging and use mass-market channels to appeal to disabled individuals and their family and support network. They do not create products for PWD; rather, they embed accessibility features into their products.
Line extensions with redesigned products for PWD
This is a hybrid approach where a mass-market product is modified to PWD, says Gartner. While the approaches to accessibility may be varied, the trend toward IT consumption patterns that place users at the centre will continue to drive consumer and enterprise IT requirements for the foreseeable future. With the trend toward more human-centric design, accessibility and overall usability for the largest percentage will become more important.