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Tackling loneliness through digital inclusion 

Written by Cheryl Swan on

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. 

All of us have felt lonely at some point in our lives, however, a wide group of our society are impacted on a daily basis due to digital exclusion. 

Our world is connected by online networks. Sadly, in this day-and-age there are still a large number of people who remain unconnected and left behind.

Technology has a vital role to play in tackling the feeling of isolation and loneliness. By not being able to access public services, online information, entertainment, or be able to interact with online communities, can lead to people feeling:

  • Disconnected from the world.
  • Left out.
  • Misunderstood.
  • Isolated from society.
  • Discriminated against. 

All of which can affect a person’s mental health. 

Who is affected by digital accessibility exclusion?

Digital exclusion are online barriers that prevent users from interacting with a website’s content. 

This could be those who: 

  • Are visually impaired or blind. 
  • Are Deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Have motor difficulties.
  • Have cognitive impairments or learning disabilities.
  • Are elderly.

Making sure a website is accessible often means ensuring it works well with assistive technology.

The responsibility of organisations to build an inclusive online platform 

Technology is an integral part of our lives and it’s not only important that people gain access to online information, it’s their human right to. 

For some organisations, such as those within the public sector, it’s the law to have an accessible website. For others it’s just a case of doing the morally right thing!

As an organisation, having a website accessibility statement is important. For one, it shows that you care about your users and about accessibility. But more importantly, it allows disabled and assistive tech users to understand what areas of a website they can and can’t access. 

An accessible website isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ feature. By not making simple adjustments to your website, it could prevent hundreds-of-thousands of people from being able to access the information and services that you provide online. 

Many will not return to your website if they cannot easily access and navigate through a website, meaning not only does the user miss out, but you also lose a whole demographic’s custom. 

It’s every company’s responsibility to ensure that they provide an inclusive website that everyone can use. Here are 7 Things Disabled People Need From Your Website that you can implement today.

Are you confident that your website is accessible for all?

Often, organisations believe that their websites are accessible, when actually a staggering amount are not. In a 2022 report from WebAIM, it stated that when performing automated scans on a million websites, 96.8% of homepages had detectable Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) leveil 2.0 failures. 

Whilst some organisations do absolutely nothing to check for accessibility obstacles, others tend to only use automated software scans on their websites. While automated scans can spot some accessibility issues buried within the site’s code, without also performing manual user testing, a wide range of accessibility barriers will be missed

Who better to check your company’s website, than those who actually have a disability and rely on assistive technology to access websites daily? 

Every accessibility audit our team undertakes is performed by an automated scan, a disabled user testing team at Shaw Trust Accessibility Services, and by our experts who closely examine the website’s coding.   

To be sure that your website is accessible, take a free website accessibility health check on us.

Challenging digital exclusion for the elderly

Good digital accessibility aids everyone in life. You may not need digital assistance at present, but down the line we may all need slight alterations on websites to help us access information and online services.

Have you ever seen your grandparents’, or an elderly friend, family member, or colleague, struggling to read the text on a website? If you see them squinting at a screen or removing their glasses to be able to read the web content, then the way the website is functioning is either not accommodating their needs or they may not know what assistance is available to them online.

This could be requiring:

  • Enlarged font.
  • Clear colour contrasts.
  • Keyboard navigation. 
  • Subtitles on videos.

Digital inclusion helps people to make social connections, access online services (such as contacting GP surgeries), or stream their favourite shows. In turn, this can help someone to maintain their independence and improve their mental health and wellbeing. 

Digital inclusion is also about providing confidence as well as gaining access to a website. If you know someone who is elderly, check in with them and see if they:

  • Lack confidence is utilising the internet.
  • Know how to use software.
  • Want to learn any new digital skills.
  • Understand what benefits the internet can bring. 
  • Have any concerns about online security.
  • Know how to use online assistive technology and know how to make devices easier to use.

Age UK offers a great range of advice about digital inclusion and combating loneliness for the elderly

Accessible online wellbeing and mental health resources 

There is lots of informative online wellbeing resources to help others and yourself – here’s just a few: