People with physical disabilities have greater mobility than ever before thanks to sidewalk ramps and graded building entrances and exits. The sight-impaired can navigate city streets with audible street-crossing systems and mapping apps, while the hearing-impaired can communicate more freely with specialized phone apps and devices.
But accessibility concerns are not only limited to external environments in society at large. They are now regularly integrated into the software that businesses use as well — especially in the areas of technical support and customer service. And, increasingly, accessibility also plays a role in field service.
When evaluating whether your organization should incorporate more accessibility in the field service management software it uses, you should ask a number of key questions:
- How important is accessibility as a consideration in a specific software product or line of products, such as service management applications, IT service management applications and project services applications? Are these products likely to adopt accessibility features as a sales or acquisition influencer in the future?
- What is the current (or emerging) demand for accessibility as a build-in to the software products that an organization uses? Is it merely a “nice-to-have” or a “need-to-have” component?
- How important is accessibility in your software in terms of being simply compliant, such as with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or other similar country-specific regulations? How important is it in being usable by any and all disabled members of the organization’s user base)?
- What is the degree to which accessibility may be used as a sales or marketing tool, both internally (to gain management buy-in from the CIO, CFO and other stakeholders) and externally (among existing and prospective customers)? Will it appeal or matter to your customer base that your organization plans to meet the needs of disabled employees who will be using the software?
Accessibility concerns also should address both permanent (blindness, color-blindness, hearing loss, etc.) and temporary disabilities (broken arm, cataracts, etc.), as well as situational disabilities (performing service in extremely noisy, cold or windy conditions)
For each of these cases, you will need to consider a set of additional drill-down questions as part of the company’s due diligence in selecting or producing an accessibility-based field service software product, including:
- What are the existing levels of awareness of accessibility as a purchasing influencer in the software product markets that your organization supports?
- What are the current definitions or perceptions of accessibility in your market space? For example, is accessibility broadly defined, specifically defined or all-inclusive?
- What is the perceived importance of accessibility among the various customers and users that you support?
- What is the current extent of disabled personnel or users among your customers’ workforces?
- What is the current degree of compliance with regulatory mandates both internally and among your customer base?
- What is the perceived demand or preference for accessibility within the market segments in which you offer your software products?
- What are the perceived benefits and advantages of building accessibility into your existing (and planned) lines of software products? What are the perceived disadvantages?
- What is the likelihood of your customer base considering an accessibility-based software application in the future? Would they be willing to pay a premium for additional built-in accessibility functionality — and, if so, to what degree?
- What role does accessibility play as a desired attribute in the software product selection process? For example, will an accessibility-based software product move a vendor from the “long list” of potential acquirers to its “short list”?
- How important is accessibility as an internal or external sales or marketing tool?
Whatever your organization decides about building an accessibility component into its field service management (or other business) software, one thing is certain: The needs, requirements and preferences of the marketplace will vary virtually on a customer-by-customer basis, depending on the importance each one places on accessibility. It is not a one-size-fits-all issue.
But by properly asking and answering each of the above-listed questions, your organization — whether on the supply or demand side of the field service management product equation — at least will be off to a good start in ensuring that its final strategy will be thoughtful and as all-inclusive as possible.
In the large, fast-growing and highly diverse field service community, asking the right questions about accessibility is the first step toward empowering all employees to perform at their best, including with the assistance of an accessibility-enhanced software platform.