Accessible technology and inclusive design

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Technology can facilitate efficient ways to communicate, and to process and organize data for the purpose of risk and crisis management. In many cases, it is important to target information to those who are or could be affected by an incident, since receiving irrelevant information may lead to turning out the channel of contact. Mobile technology enables individuals be reached whenever and wherever they are: notification technologies can utilize the geographical positioning capability of a mobile device (cell positioning, WiFi, GPS).

In emergency situations, information must reach all members of the community at risk. It is essential to insure that the technologies themselves do not exclude segments of the populations. In order to have accessible technology, systems used in crisis communications must be inclusive by design.

“Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device service or environment is available to as many people as possible”, according to Sullivan (2013), who stresses that technological systems are usable by a broad range of individuals. Systems can be made accessible in two general ways: (1) direct accessibility takes the approach that systems can be designed to be directly usable by all including those with disabilities; (2) assistive technologies mean add-on hardware or software that make a system usable by someone with a specific type of disability. Inclusiveness as a principle ensures that all members of the user community are considered in the design, implementation and operational usage of a product or service. An inclusive approach in communication incorporates the needs and requirements of all members of the community at risk.

Simple user interfaces can solve part of the problem of barriers related to the use of mobile devices. However, messages delivered should also be presented in a format and style that is understandable, for example, in alerts using, broadcast media, text messaging, voice calls, electronic displays, and outdoor sirens. Accessibility should also be considered from the point of view of service use, as it is linked to the possibilities for using diverse means, such as sms, video, web-based forms, mobile apps, and social media services such as Facebook and Twitter.

Technology – supporting public resilience