Frequently asked questions
Read the Introduction to Accessibility. For information on specific technologies, also read:
- About Web Accessibility
- About Public Access Terminals Accessibility
- About Telecoms Accessibility
- About Application Software Accessibility
- About Smart Card Accessibility
Legislation relevant to the procurement and provision of accessible IT is described on the Legislation and Public Policy page.
Central and local Government policy relevant to the procurement and provision of accessible IT is described on the Legislation and Public Policy page.
For procurers, the cost of accessibility depends on what is being purchased and how it is developed. For an 'off-the-shelf' product, such as a photocopier or a piece of shrink-wrapped software, it may be possible to choose at the purchasing stage between alternative products with different levels of accessibility. If an accessible product is available that fulfills all other requirements without costing more than the inaccessible product, then the purchaser can simply choose that one and the cost of accessibility will be nil. Significant extra costs may occur where off-the-shelf products are not accessible and there are no accessible alternatives available. This may be unavoidable.
Bespoke software, hardware or other IT systems that are designed or configured to suit the purchaser's needs can often be designed from the outset to be accessible at little or no extra cost. If accessibility is considered from the start and an inclusive, user-centred design process is followed, the increased cost of creating a universally accessible solution may be very little. A good example of this is a website. It is not usually difficult to design a website in a way that it is fully functional, aesthetic and accessible. An accessible design process may, however, include extra steps, such as third-party auditing or user testing by people with disabilities. This will add some cost, but the significance of this added cost should be judged within the overall cost of development. For medium to large purchases, the addition of third party auditing and user testing should not appreciably increase the budget. Even for small purchases of €10,000 or less, some user involvement and accessibility expertise should be affordable. The large number of people who will benefit from increased accessibility may make the cost/benefit ratio very low. The reduced need for alternative service provision means that, in many cases, implementing an accessible solution will actually save money in the long term.
Significant extra costs may occur where a bespoke system was not designed to be accessible from the start and accessibility can only be achieved by a major redesign or retrofitting alternative functionalities. As far as possible, it is up to the procurer to ensure that this scenario does not occur by clearly stating the requirement for accessibility and an inclusive design process in the Request for Tenders (see Writing an RTF).
Workplace adaptations for members of staff with disabilities may not be prohibitively expensive. The Workplace Equipment/Adaptation Grant scheme is run by FÁS for a "disabled person, who has been offered employment or are in employment, and require a more accessible workplace or adapted equipment to do your job".
Accessibility guidelines are generally clear enough to use as a basis for design and it is not necessarily difficult to assess the accessibility of a design.
Accessibility guidelines are stated as either functional requirements or technical requirements. The former usually state what the piece of software or hardware must be able to do; the latter usually include measurable criteria by which the requirement can be tested. It can be more difficult to judge if a functional requirement has been met. These are often not precise and objectively measurable and may vary considerably across populations, circumstances and time. However, because all accessibility requirements and guidelines are based on human experiences, they are quite easy for humans to contemplate and reason about.
For example, a typical requirement is that there should be a sufficient contrast between text and background to ensure readability. The exact contrast required may be difficult to state in precise terms and difficult to measure (although for some technologies exact specifications are may available). The "best" contrast may depend on the ambient lighting conditions, the size and shape of the text, who is reading it and other things. Some simple user trials can quickly provide information on the effectiveness of the chosen contrast. User testing can be a valuable assessment tool for an IT product or service and can be carried out in a range of informal or formal ways.
Accessibility does not, in general, restrict the functionality of IT systems if it is considered from the early stages of the design. Where particular output or interaction methods are inaccessible to some users, the solution is almost always to supplement these with other accessible methods, not to replace them. For example, whilst information on a visual display screen cannot be seen by blind users, the solution is not to throw away the screen, which would make it inaccessible to deaf users and reduce usability for most others, but to add speech output as an alternative. The correct approach to catering for the diversity of users’ needs is to provide multiple and flexible interaction methods and mechanisms, rather than attempting to create a 'one-size-fits-all' device.
There will, however, be problems with using certain off-the-shelf products if their design and construction makes them difficult to enhance or modify. The vendors of such products may need to work with assistive technology providers in order to modify the inner workings of their products so that they are compatible. But vendors may welcome this opportunity to enhance their products if they can see that it helps them secure contracts, gives them an extra selling point and broadens their market.