Making an Inclusive world - Technologically!

Alex Castle

22 November 2017

Making an Inclusive world - Technologically!

“Let’s unite the different skills we have, to find solutions, to make society accessible to everybody”

Daniela Bas (Director of UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development)

Inclusion is an understatement. And that stands true for people with disability. Be it for their employment, their special needs or the use of technology. We are going to focus is on the later part.

Let’s understand what Inclusion really is:

As per the Annual Disability Status Reports, currently around 10% of the world's population, or roughly 650 million people, live with a disability. Of course, disability varies on the type and intensity. But again 10% is a substantial part. And we cannot detach them from the mainstream society.

Apparently the world around us is designed to suit an average person. But can we not design and develop for a truly inclusive world?

Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. Mostly because of the access, diverse set of users has to large amounts of information through the Internet. The Internet has removed barriers (to a good extent) and has allowed people with disabilities to become more independent. More than a moral obligation it (accessibility to information) is now a legal requirement in many regions around the world. Many institutions (Government and/or Private) have integrated accessibility of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by adapting the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines.

Efforts are been made to create more inclusive computer interfaces. “Inclusive Design’ and ‘Universal Usability’ concepts have been introduced, in addition to the development of W3C work in the field of web accessibility. These concepts and guidelines have drawn some attention to the inclusion of disabled populations. Imperatively, there is not enough support to integrate users with disabilities, whether in workplace or social or educational context. The aim is to fill the gap in current assistive technology, and to enhance digital experience for people with disabilities and, in turn, for everyone else. Smartphones have proved to make life easier for people with vision or hearing difficulties, or who have problems with effectively communicating their thoughts because of mental or physical limitations.

So the need of the hour is to build tools and technology accessible to everyone. People with visual impairments need screen readers or larger text. People with motor restrictions need something to stabilize them while interacting with a touch screen. Likewise, people with hearing impairment need something to enhance/aid their hearing capacity.  The possibilities are immense.

Google has always pioneered in the research part – pretty much in every sphere. One good example is Google Docs. It now allows typing, editing and formatting using voice commands. It is easier for people who can’t use a touchscreen to edit documents like “copy” or “insert table”. Other breakthrough developments in this field are, Grid Pad, iBot Stair-Climbing Wheelchair, TalkBack, ChromeVox, Voice commands on Android devices, Accessibility Scanner. More whereabouts can be found here.

Assistive technology is evolving and is opening new doors for the disabled. The future looks promising as top developers across the globe continue to work on designing and creating new gadgets, devices, and breakthroughs in the tech world. The use of technology is increasing in the disabled community and is empowering users to enjoy freedom and independence that was restricted in the past.

Artificial intelligence is another revolution that is improving the daily standard of care for people with disabilities. We can expect more out of it as researchers continue to refine the capabilities of artificial intelligence.

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