By Mario Toneguzzi
A Toronto-based technology company is providing accessibility solutions to a growing number of people with disabilities who are finding it challenging to navigate the digital world.
In November, eSSENTIAL Accessibility launched groundbreaking technology giving people with physical disabilities a barrier-free mobile experience with its Android application.
The application for Android devices allows people with limited dexterity to overcome barriers through hands-free technology, touch-replacement tools, and voice recognition capabilities. The technology benefits those with quadriplegia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and other conditions that make it challenging to use touchscreen smartphones and tablets.
Spiro Papathanasakis, one of the co-founders and a director with the company, says the company has been in business for almost 10 years.
“We’re really a social enterprise that helps organizations create more accessible digital platforms. We help through the integration of assistive technology. We offer web accessibility evaluation and remediation services to help organizations ensure that their content is accessible,” he says.
“And by implementing this solution, brands are able to enhance their digital customer experience for folks with disabilities. It not only helps them build on that customer experience but it also helps with meeting current regulations and standards. And also as a brand for an organization it helps them project an inclusive and obviously disability-friendly presence in one of its most important channels - right now of course being digital. It’s critical that brands connect with all consumers and of course employees as well."
“By working and partnering with us they’re able to improve and ensure that they are connecting and not leaving anyone behind."
The technology is available on a no-cost-to-user basis through eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s brand partners.
The company also has a presence in Brazil, in the United States and Switzerland.
“We’ve got a global presence in terms of our people,” said Papathanasakis.
“Mobile is becoming more and more important for all organizations, but especially for retailers. So ensuring that mobile apps are built to be accessible, ensuring that there are assistive technology solutions available for mobile is also becoming a critical piece,” says Papathanasakis. “So from both perspectives, from the technology being available to consumers and from the standpoint of ensuring that the content itself whether it’s mobile or whether it’s apps and so on they should be made accessible and in that way a retailer will not leave anyone behind."
“This isn’t just about doing the right thing or meeting regulations, this is about ensuring as a retailer that all consumers have access to your products and services.”
The company offers the following key points to consider:
A survey of shopping and consumption behaviours by people with disabilities asked about their experience accessing product information before making a purchase at a retail store. Only 50- 60 per cent of consumers with disabilities were satisfied with their experience;
Over half (54 per cent) of consumers with disabilities would shop more frequently or spend more money in restaurants and stores that have made an effort to be accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities;
58 per cent of consumers with disabilities feel that companies all too often introduce new products or services without any consideration of disability-related needs. This number rises to 80 per cent among people who use wheelchairs or scooters;
71 per cent of customers with disabilities will leave your website once they realize it’s difficult to use. The spending power of these customers represents about 10 per cent of total online spending; and
Nine out of 10 customers who encounter accessibility barriers on your website won’t take the time to let you know about it.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.