Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Accessibility can be a selling feature

A couple of weeks back I gave a presentation at an event that was hosted by Microsoft. During the Q&A period the subject moved to how well/bad consumer electronics companies, including software suppliers, cater for the problems of physiological ageing.

As is my wont I made an all encompassing statement that I thought they didn’t give a damn.

This didn’t go down too well with the people in the room from these companies. Needless to say the Microsoft host was having none of it and promised to send me details of the things that MS is doing. She was as good as her word and sent me the following links.

Developer Centre of accessibility

MS main page about accessibility

Aging Workforce and Accessible Technology—Introduction

The Assistive Technology Research Institute (ATRI) – a source of information about assistive technology and universal design.

I was also recommended to have a read of Abrahams Accessibility blog that is all about the accessibility and usability subject.

Clearly MS has given a lot of thought to this issue. I guess the problem is that not that many people know about them.

This was illustrated the previous week when spent some time at PC World, one the of the UK’s largest retail computer suppliers, with an 80 year old neighbour who wanted to buy a laptop. This lady is very smart and computer literate but has eyesight and dexterity issues.

As we roamed along the rows of laptops a couple of members of staff came to help and I asked if they could change the display settings and activate any other features to improve the accessibility. I didn’t think the store would like fiddling around with the settings otherwise I would have done it myself.

Not one of the staff knew what to do. I like the staff in the store, they are helpful and considerate but clearly have had no training on what to do to if confronted by and older person. Looking around the store I reckon that a quarter of the customers were 65+. Dick Stroud

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