Technology has become an integral part of daily life. That’s why inclusive design and access to tech is key to ensuring that everyone can enjoy the benefits.
Accessible technology means something different to everyone you ask. So, ahead of Total Telecom Congress 2022 next week, we spoke to technology analyst Chris Lewis to find out what the term means to him. Chris and his guide dog Varley are well-known faces at industry events and furthermore Chris is a leading advocate on improving access to tech.
You are well known for your advocacy on accessible technology, what does that phrase mean to you?
Being blind it has a very specific meaning about rendering all content consumable to me. But, more broadly, it is about making sure everyone has access to the digital world with all of its content, applications and interaction possibilities. Accessibility has a physical meaning, of course, but for our industry it is more about ensuring that devices and communications services give everyone that access to everything.
If there is one main thing telcos can do to improve in this area, what would it be?
Customer experience is on everyones’ lips. From an accessibility perspective it is essential that all channels of interaction are made accessible and/or interchangeable. What I mean by that is that people are not forced to use channels they find difficult to navigate. At the end of the day, channels should be the ones preferred by the individual and not by the technology choices of the industry. So, personal interaction with a knowledgeable agent has got to remain a key service option, even if this is more expensive than the chatbots in vogue today. In short, turn the customer experience into a personal, human one and don’t expect humans to force-fit themselves into a technology straight jacket.
You will be chairing a panel titled Accessible Technology. Can you tell us about how improving accessibility can present a major opportunity for telcos?
This is indicative of where accessibility comes from. It was a CSR issue, has moved into ESG and now into EDI (Equality Diversity & Inclusion). It is a mainstream issue with previously excluded groups such as the disabled now being brought into the mainstream markets. And, of course, that comes with new customers, new spend and the opportunity to deliver them a service which enhances their personal and working lives. And, by the way, these formerly excluded groups include the elderly, people unable to afford the service as well as the disabled community. It is a major commercial opportunity if taken together and baked into all product and services going forward. This is one reason why I am increasingly looking at Inclusive Design and the notion that if we design for the peripheral case we get the benefit for free. It is sort of turning perceived wisdom about design on it its head, catering for the peripheral cases such as disability first and then building a much simplified but majorly more inclusive environment for everyone to flourish.
What are you looking forward to at Total Telecom Congress next month?
Total Telecom Congress is always a great place to meet the people shaping the future of our industry. Taking time out to listen to the diverse perspectives and to have those impromptu side discussions all add to a better understanding of the industry and where it’s going.
Chris will be chairing a panel on “Accessible technology” on 1st November. Head to the Total Telecom Congress website for more details on how to join.