I might not be the sort of person you think of when talking about digital exclusion – I work, I can afford broadband and decent IT gear, I have used computers all my working life and I live in a city where internet access is good.
But I still find that at times, I cannot access the goods and services I want online. That’s because I’m also blind. This means, to use computers, I rely on special software that reads whatever’s on the screen out loud for me. For that software to work, it needs the websites, emails or social media posts to be compatible, to be put together in a way that allows my screen reader to do its job.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Through poor design, or a lack of awareness or thought, I regularly get stuck when I’m trying to book a ticket, place an order or book an appointment. So, I must either miss out or ask for help.
Imagine if you went to shop at a store, only to find that when you arrive at the shop front, you can’t find your way in. You stand in the street and watch others effortlessly entering, but the doors just won’t open for you. Imagine if that happened not just at the shop, but also the bank, the library, the cinema. Imagine how that would make you feel.
It’s frustrating, time-consuming and discriminates against me because of my disability. It also doesn’t have to be that way.
Poor accessibility is just one of the reasons why people in our region are digitally excluded. Poor internet coverage, the high cost of broadband and equipment, and a lack of digital skills are also contributing factors. So, we have teamed up with a group of local organisations to start a campaign to improve digital inclusion across our region. It’s called Better ConNEcted, and you can find out all about it on the campaign website – www.betterconnected.org.uk
– Richard Boggie, Development Manager