Last week Sarah Newton MP became the UK’s Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health, after her predecessor Penny Mordaunt MP, became the new International Development Secretary.
Firstly, we want to take this opportunity to congratulate Sarah Newton MP and we welcome her contribution to improving the lives of all disabled people in this country. We also want to thank Penny Mordaunt MP for all her work for disabled people and to congratulate her for her new role.
As you would expect, Penny Mordaunt MP campaigned for greater accessibility whilst in her role as Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health. She told the BBC earlier this year that businesses must change to improve accessibility for disabled people.
Speaking upon the launch of a DWP scheme that has seen eleven sector champions appointed to help make different areas of business more accountable to disabled people, she said: "As a public advocate for accessibility, these champions will help businesses realise the value of disabled consumers and the importance of catering to every customer's needs.
"These industries must become fully inclusive. Not being able to access the high street, products and services, transport or simply to access a loo jars with our national values: it must change."
Changing this lack of accessibility and inclusion is a huge challenge that Sarah Newton MP faces in her new role. As she starts evaluating the responsibilities of her new portfolio we respectfully urge her to immediately place digital accessibility at the top of her list of priorities as the minister who represents disabled people.
Digital accessibility and inclusion now matters more than ever before because we have become a digital, networked society. The internet is now increasingly seen as a utility, not a commodity, and many public and private sector organisations now require customers to interact with them digitally and online.
Digital exclusion can occur when people can’t access digital services because of disability. There are currently more than eleven million disabled people in the UK and sources like the Click-Away Pound survey show that disabled people regularly face digital exclusion from accessing goods and services online.
For example, the Click-Away Pound Survey 2016 showed that:
- 71% of disabled customers with access needs will click away from a website that they find difficult to use.
- Those customers who click away have an estimated spending power of £11.75 billion in the UK alone, around 10% of the total UK online spend in 2016.
- 82% of customers with access needs would spend more if websites were more accessible.
Because we have an ageing population, and most disabilities are acquired with age, the number of people facing digital exclusion will only increase unless more is done to make all digital communications accessible and inclusive.
Digital exclusion can be easily overcome by using inclusive design from the start of all projects and campaigns, combined with assistive technology like Recite Me and Include Me, which can make digital communications accessible to everyone.
The Equality Act (2010) requires every public and private sector organisation in the UK to make reasonable adjustments to make their communications accessible and inclusive for everyone. But clearly there isn’t enough being done by all organisations to comply with the law, and this needs to change now.
That’s why we believe it’s the perfect time for the new Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health to use both carrot and stick to make sure every organisation in the UK provides disabled people with accessible and inclusive communications.
Allowing disabled people to continue to be excluded from society, by digital exclusion, in contradiction with the The Equality Act (2010), must become a thing of the past.
To make this happen we need Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health to lead from the top and drive the change required.