How biometrics is aiding accessible authentication

We often speak to the security advantages of biometrics, but importantly it’s also a form of inclusive technology that improves accessibility for people with disability.  

People with disability make up one in five Australians. New forms of Inclusive Technology are in constant development, encompassing a very broad area of need and providing tools to assist with tasks that would be difficult or impossible to complete without assistance. Yet there’s undoubtedly a lack of awareness and understanding to the barriers many people face in their day-to-day life, with organisations largely failing to adopt technologies that are accessible to our population’s wide cross-section.  

The need for greater access to services and support

Users should be given the tools to access what they need in a timely and efficient manner. Unfortunately, people with disability are often met with ineffective or outdated systems that perform the bare minimum in terms of authentication and therefore lead to a frustrating and time-consuming experience for the user. 

This is particularly critical when you consider how often people with disability are unable to complete essential tasks because of poor systems. These issues run the gamut – from people with low vision and blindness being unable to pay their bills online, to outdated government support services causing delays, as well as entrenched discrimination when hiring people with disability. 

The concept of digital design and inclusion is similar to developing a community that is built for inclusion, says industry expert Nieve Dee, a Fraud Risk specialist with more than 15 years’ experience developing programs for increased accessibility and inclusion. 

Digital inclusion is a basic human right, and it’s the law. The challenge is to build awareness and develop a culture around ‘inclusive design’ and designing for ability rather than disability, whether it be a civic space or digital platform. We need a paradigm shift from a ‘one-fits-all’ approach and innovation is at the centre of this shift. 

How biometrics can help

Biometric modalities, including eyes, voice, faces and fingertips, are unique to everyone. They are also highly accessible when compared to traditional authentication methods such as passwords, PIN codes and access passes. Biometric technology can remove significant barriers to inclusion, enabling people living with disability more streamlined access to both physical environments and digital applications. 

Just as passwords should never be the solitary strategy to protect an organisation’s sensitive data from external threats, neither should biometrics rely on one particular solution. Rather, it should be a holistic deployment of various modalities that look to eliminate the inefficiencies and hurdles that people with disability encounter when attempting to authenticate their identities. 

One comprehensive paper, Making content usable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, explores the everyday accessibility challenges for people with disability. For two individuals (Anna and Jonathan) with memory impairments, they require a method of secure website authentication to complete certain tasks. Their needs include: 

  • The ability to use a website without remembering or transcribing passwords and usernames. 
  • No requirement to decipher lots of words or symbols. 
  • A simple login process that doesn’t have multiple steps. 
  • A login process that doesn’t rely on lots of words. 
  • No puzzles or calculations to authenticate their identity. 

All these issues can be solved with a suite of biometrics. This may include a fingerprint scan or voice recognition for people with memory impairment or low vision, or facial recognition for touchless physical access (well-suited to wheelchair access). When deployed successfully, a biometric solution eliminates the shortcomings of traditional authentication methods. 

While improving authentication accessibility eliminates roadblocks and enables people with disability, it’s a positive move for everyone – from the casual user to the first-year employee and right up to the C-suite. After all, better accessibility means tasks are streamlined, complaints are reduced and the organisation can, ultimately, enjoy the financial rewards of a more accessible system. 

The key to the development of any system is to know your customer and provide an alternative authentication system to ensure there is always a back-up option,” says Dee 

As we all have individual needs and different appetite for using technology, authentication technologies should support the widest possible range of customers, including customers who require an alternative mode of access. Turning exclusion into inclusion isn’t rocket science, it just needs to be identified as a critical component in the initial planning phase of any project development, for either physical infrastructure or online digital platforms.  

Daltrey’s unique solution gives users a unified biometric credential that allows streamlined access to both physical environments and digital applications. Most importantly, it’s extremely accessible and easy to use. Find out more about how Daltrey works