Technology has become an important part of everyone’s daily life. When it comes to people with any kind of disability, technology breaks down barriers that have been around for centuries.
Technology has become an important part of everyone’s daily life. When it comes to people with any kind of disability, technology has broken barriers that have been around for centuries, but there are still many great challenges facing a large segment of the population. Because of these obstacles, computing design and technology development must continue.
Technology as an enabler for the inclusion of persons with disabilities
Emerging technologies can have a very direct impact on the daily lives of people with disabilities: for example, for the visually impaired, there are new navigation applications that can provide guidance in public spaces and buildings. This solution can provide accurate step-by-step directions through the smartphone.
Another example is the improvement of audio devices for the hard of hearing. Most of our interactions take place online, via video or audio. It can be difficult for people with hearing impairments to keep up with the flow. This population also experienced extreme deprivation during the pandemic. Given this background, the hearing aid market will experience significant growth and with it, an opportunity to combine artificial intelligence and 3D printing to expand the reach of low-cost personal hearing aids to patients around the world, especially in underserved markets.
For people with motor neuron disease (MND), there are voice banking solutions available through interactive websites. Anyone can record themselves reading a 1,000-word story aloud, which takes about 20 minutes. Then, the processed sounds are converted into a digital audio that people with MND can use on any speech assistive device, allowing them to communicate their upcoming tones of voice.
Accessible technologies drive innovation
Technology is an increasingly essential part of life, and accessible technologies facilitate access to education, employment, public services, shopping, entertainment, and more. To take these innovations to the next level, it is important to involve people with disabilities in research and development, from design to testing, to ensure that decisions about end products take into account these diverse perspectives.
Everyone is unique, and the future of accessible technology is to truly democratize computing experiences that are personalized for everyone. A lot of times when we think about accessibility, we think about designing the keyboard and mouse screen experience for a laptop, but going forward, we need to rethink the relationship between a person and a computer. Access leads to innovation and creates more human-centered computing experiences.
An accessible future
The tech industry is going through a major inflection point, leading to breakthroughs with new technologies, data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IOT), graphics and software to name a few, to open up a whole new gamut of applications coming of age.
For example, by applying machine learning algorithms to the processing we do on computers, we can begin to achieve specific proactive computing. The computer can begin to understand your intentions and be able to do things proactively instead of responding to a simple command. The interface can become a companion who understands your needs and works for you more.
Sensing technologies combined with artificial intelligence could also begin to simulate the systems of human perception, our eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and the systems that allow us to interpret the world. This may be a real advantage for people who have deficits in one or more sensory abilities.
We have the ability to lead change and the idea that everyone deserves to participate in building the future is essential. If we embrace the ‘do nothing for us without us’ philosophy and work alongside people with disabilities, we can make amazing progress and reimagine computing as a whole.