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Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More than half (57 per cent) of the work-age population will benefit from 'accessible technology', according to Forrester Research. And numbers will grow as the demographic of the West shifts to the grey and a greater proportion of the population experience problems with sight, hearing and dexterity.

Accessible technology is something we can all benefit from, despite its traditional association with the disabled population, according to Microsoft. The software giant, which sponsored the Forrester report, has set up an online resource with tips and advice for workers as part of its Aging Workforce campaign, which can be found here.

The report is welcomed by the RNIB, which aims to challenge the stereotype of what a disability actually is; we should all think about the way that we use technology, and reject bad solutions, it argues.

"No-one actually wants to identify themselves as disabled. We tend to think of the disabled as a group outside ourselves," said Julie Howell, digital policy development officer at the RNIB. "But the reality of the situation is that as we age, our bodies wear out. We might say 'oh, I just don't see so well anymore'; our experience of the world is the same as a disabled person."

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, it is essential for businesses to supporting an aging workforce if they are to retain skills. Jim Emmerman, COO of the American Society on Aging, explains: "Whether out of choice or necessity, mid-career and older workers are planning to stay active in the workforce much longer, and having access to technology that recognizes and accommodates their changing abilities is going to be critical."

To deal with the issue properly, we need to change how we interact with technology altogether, Howell says. The way we currently use technology puts the computer, rather than the user, in control, she argues.

"I hope this research will highlight that none of us need to accept the standard setups of our technology as adequate. We don't have to fit ourselves around an unnatural set-up: we can do better the standard mouse, the standard keyboard, the standard settings. It isn't normal for us to squint at a computer screen under fluorescent lights for eight hours of every day and we need to modify the technology we use to reflect that." ®

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