The Value of Universal Design

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on December 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

By Len Cali, AT&T Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy 

Did you know that one quarter of the U.S. population consists of people who are elderly, have a disability, or both?  And 30% of households in this country have a family member with a disability.  With our aging population, roughly 10,000 people turn 65 every day.  And this trend is expected to continue for the next two decades.  Think about that.  This is a significant number of Americans whose appetite for mobile broadband technologies is just as voracious as the rest of the population. 

This week, I had the privilege of delivering a keynote address at the M-Enabling Summit held here in Washington D.C.  This was the first industry event dedicated exclusively to exploring accessible and assistive mobile platforms to better serve seniors and persons with disabilities.  

Our philosophy at AT&T has always been to design products and services that benefit as many people as possible.  And our Universal Design policy provides our suppliers and internal stakeholders with a clear set of guidelines that enable us to bring accessible products and services to the marketplace.  

At the heart of Universal Design is user-centered design incorporated at the earliest stages of development.  This requires a keen understanding of how people with a variety of needs and limitations interact with a particular device or service.  

This video does a terrific job illustrating the powerful, real-world impact of Universal Design.  

This week’s summit, made possible by the Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ict), drew an impressive crowd of policymakers, government officials, industry representatives, and leaders from the disability community. 

I focused my remarks on the “Inclusion Imperative” and why developing accessible products and services makes good business sense.  That’s not to say the market will drive all our disability solutions.  But it does mean that a forward-looking company with the right culture, system, and processes in place can drive more economic and efficient solutions than we might have thought possible.  And this is particularly true in the mobile broadband ecosystem, which is marked by such rapid technological innovation.  

We’re very proud of our efforts to help create a more inclusive world and we’re excited about what the future holds and what new innovations lay ahead.  The benefits of mobile broadband technologies are universal.  It’s only logical that the products and services that deliver these extraordinary technologies be universally accessible as well.  It’s that simple. 

If you would like to learn more about how AT&T has integrated accessibility into its activities, from product development, human resources, and talent retention to recruitment, marketing, and customer service, you can find a case study here.

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