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MORE than a quarter of disabled people are unable to use smartphone and tablet apps (applications), according to a new survey.

The survey found that although most disabled people use smartphones (83%) and have downloaded an app (90), one in four (26%) had difficulties accessing or managing them.

Of these, almost half (44%) went on to uninstall or stop using the app because of this.
The survey is part of a wider research project into home energy apps, funded by the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme. It showed the main areas of app use for disabled people are communications (email, social networking), information (travel or health) and admin (utilities, banking, travel).

Gordon McCullough, CEO at the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, said: “In this time of global pandemic, disabled people risk being further isolated by not being able to use apps that serve to perform basic necessary functions.

“Despite increased accessibility features on mobile devices, apps do not always integrate with these functions so it can be a challenge to find an app that will adequately meet differing needs.
“Not only is it increasingly urgent to rectify but it also makes good business sense. There are over 14 million people in the UK, and in 2017 the UK spending power of disabled people, their carers, and families was estimated at £249 billion.

“Disabledpeople, like all consumers want to spend money on products that work for them – the services they need and the brands they like.  Barriers preventing disabled people from being able to do this is a failure that is costing UK business £420 million a week.”
The most common accessibility issues with apps included: difficulties in downloading and setting it up, poor navigation, not supporting accessibility features, crowded display, filling in forms and registering and poor text size or font.
Dr Wesley Scott, a participant in the survey, has cerebral palsy and learning disabilities including dyslexia. He also experiences stress and anxiety. Being home a lot and having to use more energy, he needs to keep track of how much it’s costing him to heat his flat.

He said: “I would like it if when filling in forms I could speak my email address into it and other details. Filling it in manually is tricky because sometimes my hands get spasms and I end up pressing letters or words I don’t want to.

Additionally, too many colours make it confusing for me… and the contrast between the background and the writing isn’t very clear.”
RiDC is calling on businesses to ensure that accessibility is a fundamental consideration at the start of every app design process.

To find out more about how RiDC helps businesses, organisations and public institutions on their accessibility journey, go to https://www.ridc.org.uk/content/research-and-consultancy

  • About RiDC (Research Institute for Disabled Consumers)
    RiDC is a UK charity working towards an inclusive and accessible life for all.
  • RiDC helps brands to get the insight, knowledge and innovation they need to open their services and products up to as many people as possible.Their panel of over 1,600 disabled people are engaged and want to help.
  • The organisation’s 50 years of experience spans many sectors and a diverse range of topics. However obscure, complex or simple the issue, it welcomes businesses wherever they are on their accessibility journey.