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A recent study has called for the IT industry to consider the needs of disabled people when commencing new procurements.

The Business Disability Forum (BDF), conducted a study that found that most of enterprise IT purchasers, and some suppliers, are not taking into consideration the needs of disabled people when making purchasing decisions.

The study is entitled “Disability-smart approaches to engaging suppliers and partners” and said that over 50% of IT deals between businesses and IT suppliers did not have a disability-smart outcome built into the process.
When BDF says “disability-smart”, it is referring to organisations considering the needs of a variety of people into new technology ventures, said George Selvanera, author of the report and BDF strategy and external affairs director.

Inclusion in contracts

The BDF believes only 25% of businesses were reviewing contracts with IT suppliers to ensure they delivered on requirements for inclusion and accessibility, and some businesses admitted discussions with their suppliers hadn’t even taken place regarding how they approach disability.

Selvanera said that “While disability tends to be included in formal agreements by companies buying-in services, there is often a danger of it not being visible at each stage of the procurement cycle,” and concluded that “As a result, inclusion and accessibility are not grounded in the lived experience of a business’s disabled staff members and customers and don’t feature in discussions with the supplier either while the supplier is delivering on a contract, or during more formal reviews”.

Significant market segment

With disabled customers spending more than £200bn a year on products and services it is becoming much more important for businesses to bear their needs in mind, said the BDF.

Selvanera provided a number of examples where businesses have successfully applied this thinking to their IT ventures.

Barclays’ was prime example, with the bank involving disabled people in the testing and development stage of a digital interface to be used in consumer financial services.

RBS was also cited as they worked closely with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to find out how they could make ATM cards and systems more accessible to blind people.

For suppliers, he suggested that more work was needed to create awareness for disabled people, and ultimately empathy, in the IT industry through the use of simulations. This would help provide an understanding into the physical experience of using technology with impaired function.

Selvanera believes progress has been made in many areas, and said the iPhone was a good example of this.

He also highlighted hurdles to overcome during this process such as considering legacy technology not being able to include such accessibility features, and convincing employers to agree to a legal obligation to make such adjustments possible.

The BDF is endorsing management tools to businesses to help assess their current digital practice and performance with regard to the needs of disabled staff and customers.