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English councils plan IT accessibility spend

02/12/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Almost three-quarters of English councils are planning to invest in making their IT systems more accessible over the next 12 months, according to a recent survey.

Womanb's fingers on keyboard

It involved a series of freedom of information requests submitted by software company SoftwareONE to which there were 81 requests from a mixture of county councils, metropolitan councils and London boroughs.

The exercise revealed that 72% were planning to make the investments in accessibility with 95% having at least one disabled employee.  All had some assistive technologies already in place, notably screen magnifiers (92%), speech recognition (90%) and dictation technology (77%).

But despite the spending plans, only 38% had an official digital inclusion and accessibility strategy for employees, and assistance is mostly on a case-by-case basis.

Proactive approach

Andy Dunbar, service lead, technology services at SoftwareONE, said: “Investment around digital inclusion should accelerate this further, with councils proactively addressing accessibility issues that any disabled or neurodivergent employees experience.

“Achieving this doesn’t mean cash strapped councils have to pay for the latest technologies either – many already operate modern software suites with extensive accessibility tools built-in, which will help drive better outcomes for staff requiring adjustments, as well as the wider workforce.”

He pointed to Microsoft Office 365, which has accessibility features Soundscape and Translator built-in.

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