For people with disabilities the most common, everyday tasks can be highly challenging. Assistive technology aims to reduce those challenges and take advantage of today’s technological improvements to create a more accessible world in which people with disabilities can enjoy greater independence.
Ten to twenty years ago, assistive technology was still considered a luxury that not everyone could afford, however, as tech improvements keep advancing, many of those features that used to be available only through expensive, specialized equipment are now becoming more and more integrated into the design of products.
Besides products that make getting around easier like wheelchair accessible vehicles and other mobility products, there are many day-to-day activities that the abled take for granted. These 5 technological innovations aim to make the latest technologies accessible to those with disabilities.
5 Assistive And Accessible Technology Innovations For The Disabled
There are about 1 billion people living in our world with some form of disability, and as our life expectancy becomes greater, chances are many of us will be in need of assistive technology at some point in our lives. Just for this reason alone, accessible technology should be as widely available as possible.
Up next, we highlight five assistive technology innovations for people with disabilities that are well within most people’s reach. All of these help make the lives of their users easier and more independent.
#1 – Smart Home Technology
Smart Home technology such as Google Home, Alexa, and Amazon Echo have represented a revolution in the way people with disabilities move through their everyday life. Being one of the most accessible assistive technology innovations for the disabled today, this software helps people with a wide range of disabilities.
By taking over the technology controls of a household as part of their functions, smart home technology uses voice commands to control everything from doors and lights to music and thermostats. People with limited mobility can use these features to navigate their home comfortably and independently.
At the same time, features such as iOS’s Switch Control makes it possible to navigate and activate all sorts of devices through subtle body movements when installed in an iPad or iPhone, in case voice commands aren’t enough.
#2 – Built-In Customization Features On Everyday Software For An Accessible Workplace
Assistive technology innovations for people with disabilities are playing a huge part in making the workplace more accessible by supporting essential job functions, including communication and organization.
As tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google provide more and more customization features built in their products, people with disabilities are able to individualize their experience and work independently.
Microsoft, for example, includes a series of customizable apps and tools in its Windows 10 software and Microsoft Office 365: The SeeingAI software uses artificial intelligence to describe people, text and objects aloud for people with vision impairments, while the Prologuo2Go helps those with speech impairments to communicate through symbols. Even those with limited mobility and dexterity can take advantage of the IntelliGaze system, that lets them operate their computers using eye movements.
#3 – Comcast’s Xfinity Eye Detector
Watching TV and enjoying the benefits of even the simplest tasks such as recording a show or changing channels are things that abled people take for granted, but for those with disabilities, it has been considered a privilege. However, Comcast’s innovative assistive technology has changed that. Now eye detection features come as part of its Xfinity X1 cable package.
The Xfinity Eye Detector integrates seamlessly with existing eye movement detection hardware and software, while the company’s web page provides access to a great range of features aimed at people with limited mobility, allowing them to more easily change channels, access the TV guide, open apps, and record their favorite shows.
#4 – Assistive Technology For Everyone To Enjoy Video Games
For over a decade, the UK-based charity SpecialEffect has been working to customize and provide video game controllers that allow everyone, regardless of their particular challenges and disabilities, to enjoy playing video games.
By working with a team of occupational therapists and technologists they are able to customize each controller to every person’s needs, while at the same time working to develop their own code – which is available as an open-source – in order to help disabled users play popular video games such as Minecraft.
Much more recently though, large companies have become aware of the need to make their devices available to all differently abled users, with Xbox recently releasing its adaptive controller, which is able to pair with dozens of accessibility focused devices.
#5 – Apple’s AirPod Hearing Aid Mode
There are approximately 466 million people around the world suffering from hearing problems, creating a need for innovative assistive technology for hearing. Apple has not only noticed it, but done something about it, creating its Live Listen feature to be installed on iOS 12.
The Live Listen feature basically works by turning Apple’s wireless headphones, the AirPods, into a hearing aid capable of amplifying sound heard through the iPhone. While this aims to be nothing but an assistive device and not an actual hearing aid for people with severe hearing loss, Apple has also partnered with a few accessibility companies in order to provide hearing aids that easily connect to an iOS device, their “Made for Iphone” hearing aids.