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The Valuable 500 calls on global tech sector to act now on disability inclusion as major tech and comms businesses join

Announced on what would have been the first day of 2020’s cancelled Mobile World Congress, global tech businesses Audi, CGI IT UK, Mastercard, Safaricom, Sky, and trivago have today announced they have joined disability inclusion campaign The Valuable 500.

Launched at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in January 2019, over 250 companies have now committed to The Valuable 500, which hopes to have 500 global business leaders and CEOs signed up to the initiative by the UN General Assembly on the 15th September. This is in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to reduce inequality and create inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities.

The tech sector has shown a particularly strong commitment to the campaign. Alongside the new signups, current members include BT, IBM, Lenovo, Microsoft, NTT, O2, Orange, Salesforce, SoftBank, Sony, Telefonica, strategic partner of The Valuable 500 Virgin Media, Vimpelcom operating under the Beeline brand, and Vodafone.

As technology becomes increasingly entrenched in daily life, accessibility to the modern digitised world is often restricted and it is critical that this is addressed. The 2019 Click-Away Pound Survey found that in 2019, business lost an estimated £17.1 billion due to people abandoning a retail website because of accessibility barriers – an increase of £5.35 billion since 2016.

There are 7.7 billion people in the world of which 4.8 billion, or 62%, are smart phone and feature phone users – illustrating the importance of inclusive design for the 1.3 billion people globally who have a disability. Features such as speech to text and increased font size have already had a dramatic impact on improving lives for all mobile users. Innovation from apps developers, service providers, device manufacturers all have a fundamental role to play in enhancing the accessible world, and education in the business community around this is needed.

Over 250 companies across 26 countries globally are now part of The Valuable 500, marking the halfway point for the campaign, which is also in active discussion with a further 200 companies. The combined revenue of members is now over $4 trillion, with over 10 million employees.

At Davos last month, The World Economic Forum unveiled The Valuable 500 as a Tier 3 official project partner, as the campaign announced the deadline to join The Valuable 500 campaign is now 15th September 2020, coinciding with this year’s UN General Assembly.

Caroline Casey, Founder of The Valuable 500, commented:

“The technology sector has been enormously supportive of The Valuable 500. We welcome the commitment today from so many high-profile technology companies and celebrate the 250 companies who have pledged to put disability on their board agendas to date.

“It is vital that the tech industry prioritises disability inclusion at a senior level. Inclusion drives innovation, and it is no coincidence that some of our most prominent innovations such as the keyboard or remote control were designed with disability in mind. Much has already been achieved by digital service providers, however, more remains to be done and accessibility for disabled people isn’t an issue on which we can halt progress.

“The technology industry has the potential to be one of the greatest enablers when it comes to disability inclusion, from ensuring accessibility on all devices and online platforms is made readily available to all disability categories, to actively embracing the positive potential of incorporating neurodiversity into the talent pool – and it’s vital this potential is realised.

“I call on the good and the great from across the tech, mobile and telecoms industry to join us in prioritising disability inclusion. Our tech leaders need to design in for disabled people so that the 1.3bn disabled people worldwide can benefit from the same developing technology, have the same latest devices and live in the same real digital world as everyone else.”

Michael Joseph, CEO, Safaricom, commented:

“Operating in a developing nation, we witness first-hand the disproportionate effects of inequality and poverty on People with Disability. Guided by our purpose of Transforming Lives and the Sustainable Development Goals, we are committed to driving the Disability Inclusion agenda in the communities we serve.”

Unveiled at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in January 2019, the launch of The Valuable 500 campaign was the first time disability was discussed on the main stage of the Meeting with the support of global business leaders.

The campaign is supported by several global business leaders and partners, including Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever and Chairman of The Valuable 500, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Media Chief Operating Officer Jeff Dodds, Bloomberg Chairman Peter Grauer, EY Global Chairman & CEO Carmine di Sibio, the Poses Foundation, and strategic partners Omnicom and Virgin Media.

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