Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Being left out of studies

This is becoming more and more of a challenge for those of us who have a vested interest in ensuring that the demands and voices of the disabled are taken into consideration when studies are carried out.  Within the last few months, several persons from the disabled community have been complaining more and more about this particular problem and now I would like to give my humble opinion.


When it comes to seeking and understanding the needs, demands, and opinions of the disabled community, many researchers often fall woefully short.  We see it on a daily basis with regard to studies that pertain to such things as:  Customer services, online services, banking services, and municipal services.  I recently attended a meeting where a company wanted to share its research on a study that it had carried out with regard to its customer services.  It was dying to tell us about its findings; what it needed to do in order to improve its customer services, and which type of consumers it had included in its studies.  I listened patiently for about an hour and was quite impressed by what I had heard and when it came time for questions my hand was one of the first to go up.


When I asked if disabled consumers had been included in the company's research, the response was a firm no and when I asked why not, the response was a very stilted and sheepish one:  "We did not think to include disabled participants."  There still exists and unfortunately so, an attitude among companies and even within the mainstream world that the disabled community is one that does not really matter in the general scheme of things.  The voice of the disabled consumer is one that lingers way in the background and the needs and demands of the disabled consumer is of little importance.


This unhealthy attitude may soon be one of the past; especially with a rapidly aging population where it is only natural that more and more persons are going to become disabled in one way or the other.  Such things as disabling diseases that often accompany the aging process along with more persons being afflicted with disabling diseases due to such factors as obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and circumstances of war.  It is time for researchers to start paying attention to a growing group of consumers; the disabled community. 


If this community continues to be ignored, then much sooner than later, companies are going to find themselves being faced with no alternative but to react.  Would it not be better to pro-act now rather than react later?


I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and help to convince researchers that they need to include disabled persons in their studies.  Visit www.nfb.org or www.afb.org to learn more.

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