The government has laid out plans for making websites, computers and other parts of the “digital economy” more accessible to disabled people.
The new eAccessibility Action Plan, published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, calls for a “step change” in e-accessibility by the time of the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
As part of the plan, the Cabinet Office will set out proposals for improving the accessibility of public websites next spring.
Three months ago, the prime minister’s “digital champion”, Martha Lane Fox, called on the government to shut down publicly-funded websites that “consistently fail to meet” its web accessibility guidelines.
Other objectives in the action plan include improving the availability and affordability of accessible digital equipment such as computers, radios and televisions, and software such as Braille and screen-reading programmes, and making online and television content accessible.
There will also be new regulations, so the communications watchdog Ofcom will be able to ensure disabled people have “equivalent” choice and access to mobile phones, television, radio and the internet.
Plans to encourage the availability of low-cost computers with built-in accessibility will be boosted when the retail giant Comet launches an accessible, low-cost PC early next year.
And the action plan says that Microsoft is working with the National Union of Students and 21 different suppliers to ensure disabled students have accessible PCs when they start university.
Ed Vaizey, the minister for culture, communications and creative industries, said: “A successful digital economy can only be achieved if everyone can enjoy the same advantages that technology offers, like access to public services, online shopping and banking, interactive games and social media.
“The market already provides options to suit different disabilities but making use of these technologies can still be difficult, and expensive.”
Vaizey said accessibility was crucial as the government was set to deliver “more and more services online”.
And he said it was “vital” that inclusive design principles should be adopted by “the widest number of organisations possible when they design, develop and deliver products, platforms and services”.