While the typical Joe often tends to require the ‘connected’ lives we live, in today’s technologically-accelerated world, without any consideration, those with disabilities haven’t had it easy when it involves this. This market is not any niche market either. consistent with WHO’s World Report on Disability, around 15 percent of the whole world’s population is disabled, which amounts to over a billion people. The demographic is extensive and their inclusion into the planet of technology is imperative to form them more empowered than they’re already.
However, it’s going to be often seen, especially in developing or under-developed nations, that folks with disabilities often recoil from gadgets and other tech products just because of the shortage of usability. consistent with Pew Research, 20 percent of disabled people don’t own a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Fortunately, tech startups, also as behemoths, are increasingly making an attempt to vary that.
With the facility of modern-day technology like machine learning and AI also because of the decreasing cost of hardware, tech companies are now enabled to craft assistive technology and build accessibility services onto their devices. These companies have also begun recognizing the financial potential of the market, as devices equipped with assistive technologies will ultimately be sold more widely.
ROLE OF THE TECH GIANTS OVER
In the previous couple of years, tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple have begun working towards making their products and services more approachable to those with disabilities, like those that struggle with mobility, sight, hearing, or speech.
Microsoft and Google conjointly offer a complete of $ 45 million in grants to developers of assistant tech. Additionally, legislation on a national and international front has also compelled companies to implement web accessibility standards onto their services. Here are some tech giants that are working towards making tech more accessible to those with disabilities.
In 2011, the social behemoth Facebook formed its Accessibility Team with the goal of catering to people with disabilities. Since then, there are numerous improvements made to the accessibility of the social media platform like the game-changing photo description system. So, rather than screen readers interpreting a picture as something as unhelpful as ‘photo’ or ‘237ABCD.jpg’, users will actually be given descriptions of the photos. When this feature was first introduced, it had been rather rough around the edges and will only provide vague descriptions. Now, AI has been employed thoroughly to permit descriptions to be more holistic by recognizing certain actions like walking, eating, and more.
Using Facebook’s inbuilt face recognition, the outline also can include the names of individuals tagged in images. The Accessibility Team also added support for 25 different languages. they’re now looking into developing functionality that might allow a user to converse with Facebook’s AI a few photos.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also includes features to get descriptions of photos using object detection technology.
Launched in 2013, Google’s Accessibility team was tasked with overseeing employee training and user research associated with disabilities to ultimately make sure that all their products were as accessible as possible. Now, the corporate claims that each one their products undergo a uniform accessibility test.
Some of the newer endeavors the corporate has done on this front include ChromeVox, a free screen reader for visually-impaired users, wheelchair accessible routes integrated into Google Maps for several cities like Boston, London, Sydney, Tokyo, and more, and therefore the Lookout app.
Lookout helps visually-impaired people navigate around by identifying objects through the user’s camera and lets them realize objects or obstacles within the way. It also can read the text on signs and labels, scan barcodes and recognizes currencies.
In May, at the I / O 2019 developer conference, the tech giant also revealed three AI projects targeted towards the disabled. Project Euphonia attempts to enhance a computers’ ability to know individuals who have speech impairments. Live Relay uses speech recognition and text-to-speech technology to form voice calls accessible to the deaf or hard of hearing. Lastly, there’s Project Diva, which stands for DIVersely Assisted, which allows individuals to interact with Google Assistant in a non-verbal manner. An external, trigger device resembling a button is employed to relay commands to Google Assistant.
Tech mammoth, Microsoft, has an AI for Accessibility program which has committed $ 25 million over the subsequent five years to create technology and improve accessibility for disabled people across the world using Microsoft products. Additionally, the corporate features a service called Windows Narrator that has now been upgraded to be more responsive and incorporates new features like the power to customize pitch, volume, reading speed so as to denote formatting like bolded, capitalized, italicized, or underlined text.
Similar to Google’s Live Relay, Microsoft brought out Seeing AI in 2017, which may be a free app that assists the visually-impaired by turning the “visual world into an audible experience”. The app can identify and narrate things like colors, currency, handwriting, barcodes, and more using the user’s phone camera. It can even describe people and their emotions.
ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
From computer game controllers for the disabled to robotic exoskeletons, the planet of consumer technology is slowly but surely evolving to become more inclusive and universally accessible. Here are a couple of gadgets that would revolutionize life for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities.
XFINITY EYE DETECTION
Comcast recently unveiled some new features to their Xfinity X1 cable package that uses eye detection technology that permits people with mobility limitations to vary the channel, access the guide, record shows, and even open some apps by just using eye motions. This free-to-use software can even be used on tablets and laptops and it works seamlessly with already-existing hardware and software on devices, so users won’t need to purchase a replacement set of gadgets to enjoy the advantages of this service
.AIRPOD HEARING AID MODE
Apple, with its revolutionary AirPods, not only changed the wireless headphones industry but also helped those with hearing disabilities. The Live Listen feature in iOS 12 turns your AirPods into hearing aids by amplifying the sound around you. It achieves this by using the microphone present on the iPhone then amplifies and pipes this audio right into your AirPods. If you would like to activate this feature, Open Settings on your iPhone, attend the center then select Customize Controls. Next, tap the green plus (+) button next to Hearing and add it to your center list. you’ll now enter the center by swiping down from the top-right on iPhone X or newer iPhones or swiping up from rock bottom on iPhone 8 or older iPhones then activate Live Listen.
XBOX ADAPTIVE CONTROLLER
Microsoft recently came out with their Xbox Adaptive Controller for those living with mobility impairments. The controller is often paired with an array of external assistive devices like switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks which may control the trigger inputs on the controller. the corporate has also filed an application for a Braille-input and output controller for the visually-impaired.
A company named Ekso Bionics develops bionic exoskeletons to assist victims of stroke, brain, and medulla spinalis injury revisit on their feet. Patients secure their limbs to a bionic suit and therefore the suit utilizes weight sensors to perceive when the user shifts his or her weight forward then triggers the device to step ahead. it’s been used extensively in injury rehabilitation centers.
LUKE PROSTHETIC ARM
Inspired by the scene within the Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand responds to the probes of a medical robot, researchers have created the LUKE, which restores the feeling of touch! Researchers from the University of Utah utilized a DARPA-funded prosthetic arm, LUKE, and have found out how to permit amputees to feel around 100 sensations. a tool is implanted within the amputee’s residual nerves and electrodes and placed in muscles which enables an information loop that transfers signals to the brain which are recognized as sensations of touch.
NEOMANO ROBOT GLOVE
This is a robotic glove that permits people to grip things more firmly and pick them up and will be especially useful for people with MS, spastic paralysis, medulla spinalis injuries, or those recovering from a stroke. The glove fits over the user’s index, finger and thumb and one continuous a Bluetooth controller will activate the titanium wires housed inside the glove which closes the wearer’s hand. Users with mobility problems can hold items, twist open bottles and containers, turn pages, open doors, and far more.
Dot may be a motorized Braille smartwatch for visually-impaired users. It comes with a chargeable battery, a slight sensor, a vibration motor, and Bluetooth. Under the deal, there are four motorized modules present, with six possible dots each. Each dot is often raised also as lowered individually and therefore the dot is capable of displaying up to four braille characters directly. The wearer can read the dial as they might a bit of paper with braille. Upon connecting it to your smartphone, users will receive Braille notifications from their smartphone on the watch.
Created by innovator Dean Kamen, the iBot may be a self-balancing, stair-climbing wheelchair made for the physically-challenged. This device tackles one among the foremost trying situations for people with limited mobility – stairs. they’re nearly everywhere and navigating them on a standard wheelchair can seem on the brink of impossible. The iBot utilizes self-balancing technology which is analogous thereto found during a Segway and aims to vary the way wheelchair-bound people navigate stairs.
ROOM FOR GROWTH
technology for the disabled and assistive technology has taken major strides over the previous couple of years. Several tech giants have even joined forces to deal with accessibility. for instance, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, and Oath together launched an accessibility program in 2018 as a part of TeachAccess. However, there’s always room for improvement and this area of assistive technology is not any different. Nutsiri “Earth” Kidkul, lead tech instructor at the Braille Institute of l. a. Center told CNET that mainstream tech companies could do a far better job of including accessibility features in software updates. She also stated that sighted people usually get new features way before blind or visually-challenged individuals can access them.
It is imperative that techguru companies creating technological innovations and products keep accessibility for the disabled at the forefront while developing gadgets and services. Companies like IBM and Microsoft have hired ‘chief accessibility officers’, a comparatively new occupation, in recent years and most tech giants have a sizeable accessibility team. Smaller companies must plan to imitate and use a couple of, or a minimum of one, disabled individual to know their perspective more holistically. Also, they need to be hired for all roles, and not just ones tied to accessibility since a product or service’s accessibility quotient isn’t determined by the efforts of 1 team but by an amalgamation of teams working together that are all collectively liable for the creation of said product or service.