This my personal blog rather than my company blog. Professionally, I help organisations implement process changes, particularly in the areas of project and process management. The indulgence of a personal blog is that I can present my views in a more straightforward style however my last post drew negative comments from part of its intended audience. Here is exactly the same content repackaged for that audience.

Today I went to the Londroid (London Android) Office RNIB Hackathon that was sponsored by Blue Via. The goal was to help app developers to learn more about the needs of blind people.

This was a great event and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible and the kind people from the RNIB, particularly Robin Spink who listened politely to my feedback.

The RNIB and the Government and disability advocates have made enormous process over the last decade. The UN Convention on the rights of the disabled reaffirmed the human rights of disabled people and specified how they should be implemented by signatory states. It also established the principles of ” reasonable accommodation” and “inclusiveness”. There has been great progress in bring these into UK Law.

But legislation is not enough. For developers to create accessible software they need to how to do it and education is required. We know that many applications can be accessible with little time and effort simply by following good development practices. Today’s presentations were a good example of outreach.

To the two strategies of legislation, and education I would propose adding a third; market forces.

Blind people can be customers just like sighted people, they have credit cards and mobile phones and can buy software. We are told that there are 1.8 million blind and partially sighted people in the UK alone that could be a profitable market for the solo developer.

The small developer motivated by profit or social benefit (the social entrepreneur) can address needs that are too small for larger organisations

The problem is not writing code; the problem is building good applications that meet the needs of a reasonably sized segment. To do this we need many things that the RNIB can provide either directly or in a coordinating role.

  • Cost reduction
    • simple design guidelines
    • software libraries for common tasks
  • market research
    • customer archetypes
    • segmentation by disability, age, gender, location, tech use …
    • example use cases (eg wayfaring, clothes matching, cooking)
  • blind and partially sighted testers
  • publicity, marketing communications and app discovery processes
  • international co-operation to globalize markets

I am sure that the combination of powerful technology, brilliant users and keen entrepreneurs will produce great products.