Although there is plenty of room for improvement, the tech industry is creating inclusive assistive devices and software for individuals with disabilities. These technologies positively impact personal lives, work opportunities, and educational options for those with disabilities.
According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, rehabilitative technology can enable students with disabilities to access better education and open up job opportunities.
Major technology and software developers such as Zoom, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all making changes to their platforms and products to adopt a more inclusive approach towards accessibility. Assistive software backed by a managed service provider (MSP) may open doors for those who need assistive technology supported through remote monitoring and management, providing a direct link between users and instant, on-demand IT support.
Mobility Accessibility Technology
According to the CDC, over 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability, and 13.7% have a mobility disability. For many years, technology that enabled movement was limited to wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, and canes.
However, modern devices are much more advanced, and often utilize computers to operate. Some of these devices include:
IoT and Interconnected Devices
IoT devices are wireless devices that connect appliances within smart homes. These devices can help those who struggle with mobility turn lights on and off, set alarms and timers, and open doors by speaking the command aloud.
Exoskeletons are suits designed to give those with weakness and limited movement the chance to walk with renewed strength. According to ABI Research, exoskeleton suits will be worth more than $1.8 billion by 2025. These suits are mostly lower body suits that reinforce the hips, knees, and ankles of the wearer.
Some robots are being designed to help with chores, do the dishes, sweep the floor, set the table, and take out the trash. These robots are created for those with inhibited mobility who may struggle to perform these tasks on their own.
Modified Gaming Platforms and Devices
Gaming devices that utilize tactile nubs on ports and adaptive controllers can make it easier for those with tactile impairments and limited dexterity to play video games.
Studies show that six million individuals with disabilities struggle to get the necessary transportation. Self-driving cars could make it easier for these individuals to attend doctor and medical appointments and avoid accidents on the road.
Assistive Visual Technology
The CDC reports that 2,806,000 people in the United States live with visual impairment. Assistive visual technology helps those with visual disabilities read and “see” without their eyes.
Screen Reading and Enlargement Software
Those with visual disabilities can use screen reading and screen enlargement software to help them access online information. This software makes articles more accessible and helps the visually impaired use computers and read online books.
Braille Tech Adaptations
Braille devices raise and lower combinations of pins that correlate with what is written on a screen. It translates languages to braille so that blind and visually impaired individuals can read, study, and learn on their own.
Color Identification Software
Color identification software enables those who are fully or partially colorblind to tell which color is on a screen. Color blindness affects 8% of men and 0.05% of women worldwide.
Voice Command Technology
Voice command technology can help those with learning, speech, dexterity, or vision impairments. Some examples of voice command technology include:
Text to Speech
Text-to-speech software is simple but essential. This software reads written words out loud. It can help those who struggle with understanding words on a computer screen. One example is a program by Windows called Narrator. Narrator reads the onscreen text with a computerized voice and can be used to read single words, paragraphs, or an entire page.
Voice Search for Search Engines
Voice searches allow individuals to search items on the web vocally, without having to type. This enables those with dexterity disabilities. When paired with text-to-speech software, individuals with visual impairments and disabilities can search with ease on the web.
Video Relay and Hearing Assistance
According to the CDC, 5.9% of people with disabilities are deaf or have difficulty hearing. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can use video calls and services that caption videos.
Video Calls and Classes
Platforms such as Zoom have made conference video calls more popular, ensuring that individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss can communicate with sign language during calls.
Sound Notification Tools
Those in deaf communities or those with hearing loss can use sound notification tools to show that someone is ringing the doorbell or that an alarm is triggered in their home. These tools often use light or vibrations instead of sound.
Bluetooth Hearing Devices
Those who are hard of hearing can use Bluetooth hearing devices that connect with TVs and mobile devices and amplify the sound.
ToIP, RTT, and VoIP
Text over IP (ToIP), Real-Time Text (RTT), and Voice Over IP (VoIP) are call features that caption videos or produce captions for telephone calls. They provide real-time captions as the individual on the other line speaks. It assists individuals with communication during voice calls. These services may use remote IT support to enhance the individual’s experience and minimize disruptions to the technology.
Neurodivergent Technology Assistance
Neurodivergent technologies aim to improve an individual’s independence. Only 34.7% of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) attempt to attend college within seven years of graduating high school. They face struggles both inside and outside of the classroom, and neurodivergent technologies aim to improve their experience. Some examples of neurodivergent technologies include:
Virtual Reality Rehabilitation
Neurological impairments may lead to difficulty walking and limited movement. Virtual reality opens up options for mental rehabilitation to improve cognition and physical disabilities, improving a person’s quality of life.
Utilization of Games
Using video games and board games can stimulate the brain and promote active thinking. Games can help those with autism have healthy interactions with friends and help the family better understand the individual’s experiences.
Communication devices can help neurodivergent individuals speak and communicate. A device called GoTalks can aid with speech generation. The device records phrases and pairs the phrase with pictures. The user can use the device to communicate using short phrases.