Dots speaker Robin Christopherson is a founding member and head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet. The charity specialises in accessibility and inclusive design, helping clients design attractive websites and apps that are easy to use by all.
Robin was awarded the Tech4Good Special Award in 2016, and this year received an MBE for his work. We spoke with him about blockers to inclusive design in digital technology and how he see’s this changing.
How do you see technology accessibility changing?
Accessible (or inclusive) tech is becoming more mainstream. It used to be that someone blind like myself needed several expensive specialist gadgets to perform the functions that a smartphone and a bunch of free or inexpensive apps can now perform – and often much more effectively.
With the mainstreaming of inclusive design we’re also paving the way for users with no disability or impairment to access apps and websites in increasingly extreme environments. Accessibility considerations are driving the inclusive products and services of the future but disabled users will be a tiny proportion of the overall beneficiaries who will rely on them every single day.
What do you think will have the biggest impact on this change?
As we see a proliferation of digital platforms (from smartphones to wearables, from ambient computing to IoT), the concept of computing is likewise being broadened. The opportunities for users to have the choice of channel(s) that fits them best at any given moment is widening, too. Choice is good – especially when you’re disabled. This need for extreme computing by every user is the driving force towards the future of computing.
What’s the biggest challenge to designing accessible digital technology.
Lack of awareness and the assumption that it’s a low priority has historically hampered inclusive design. Accessibility has been seen as a bolt-on component, and then only when clients request it. ‘Bolt-on’ means that it can also be dropped off (or ignored altogether). I predict that in the coming years it will be as central a design and development consideration as cross-platform and UX testing. When people appreciate that it’s a roadmap to extreme usability in extreme use-cases, the priority will go way up.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Eating half a dozen doughnuts without licking my lips. Oh, and being hugely honoured to receive an MBE this year for my efforts in spreading the word about digital inclusion.
What can we expect from your talk at Dots?
Loads of demos of tech that, hopefully, will open your eyes to the importance of thinking inclusively. Bring your own doughnuts.
Join us for Dots on Friday 29th September to hear from Robin and our other fantastic speakers – get your ticket.