Assistive Technologies are beneficial to us all - Not just for People with Disabilities

10/05/2021
 
 
laptop and New York skyline

In our constantly evolving world, technology has become an integral part of society. Although advancements are encouraged, there is fear that as the world inevitably moves towards technology-enabled applications for everyday activities and interactions, those with disabilities will be left behind.

Elisa Roy opened her 2016 TED Talk with the startling revelation that losing her hearing was a gift. Her hearing loss forced her to find solutions to quotidian challenges that only those with hearing impairments encounter. Not only were her creations used by those with disabilities, but they were so convenient that they became the norm, and were used by the mainstream. Many of the apps, tactics, and tools we use today were originally solutionsfor those with disabilities, but have since become conventional due to their brilliance and simplicity. Take SMS for example: believe it or not, this ubiquitous and now unavoidable messaging service was originally created for the Deaf Community so that members would be easily reachable the same way those able to hear phone calls are. But, society recognized the brilliance and ease of SMS messaging, and soon texting became the norm. The same thing happened with Apples Siriand Googles Alexa. The technical term for these inventions is assistive technology. It became apparent to Roy that designing new products for assistive purposes from the outset creates a better product in the long run. So if assistive products are so widely used by those without disability, why not begin with a design that is accessible and inclusive for everyone? 

One billion people or 15% of the worlds population live with some form of disability. This number is expected to double by the year 2030. By the end of 2021, the assistive technology market is expected to grow by almost $7.9 billion USD, due to a rise in neurological and orthopedic disabilities and the pursuit of vendors to make their products and venues customizable and comfortable for their diverse consumer base. Businesses understand that by making a product accessible, their consumer market is broadened, thus increasing their profits. 

The duality of assistive technology products is seen in computing devices created for those with cerebral palsy. These devices engage in brain-machine interface and eye movement recognition, ensuring their future in the video gaming industry. Likewise, bone conduction technology, which assists those with hearing impairment, is implemented into the construction and production of runners headphones. These two models demonstrate the convergence of assistive technology with medical and electronic technologies for broader consumer bases, and how technologies created for those with functional limitations can be applied to commercial products successfully while still greatly benefiting those who need them most. 

Despite the emergence of more In our constantly evolving world, technology has become an integral part of society. Although advancements are encouraged, there is fear that as the world inevitably moves towards technology-enabled applications for everyday activities and interactions, those with disabilities will be left behind., at the end of the day, society is still only tolerantof those with disabilities, and not yet fully accepting. Toleranceis simply dealing with an issue in the moment without a sustainable long-term vision. Acceptance,on the other hand, connotes a sense of understanding, support, and, most importantly, inclusivity. If society continues to merely be tolerantregarding accessibility needs, those with disabilities will be increasingly excluded from society. Together, we must work together and make inclusive design the standard, not the exception.

 

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