According to the CDC, nearly one in four U.S. adults lives with some form of disability. Still, though a large portion of the population experiences physical or mental limitations, inaccessibility runs rampant through public spaces, like work and school. That said, over the past decade, modern technology has revolutionized the way people with disabilities exist in an able-bodied world.
Whether it’s video chat programs allowing for remote school and work, or assistive technology with easy-to-use, intuitive features, digital devices have changed the face of accessibility.
Ultimately, technological advancements have paved the way for inclusivity in all realms, equipping disabled people with accessible features and gadgets. Read on for five ways modern tech has helped create inclusive, disability-friendly spaces.
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Previously, tech companies would roll out products with unchecked bias, overlooking those with cognitive and physical impairments, building complex designs with inaccessible features. Though there are still complicated, intricate gadgets and programs for tech-savvy individuals, developers have begun creating devices tailored toward those who find technology challenging to navigate.
For example, companies like Lively Direct offer cellular devices for seniors with hearing and visual impairments who need accessibility features and extra guidance to utilize modern tech. With magnifiable text, bright screens, and easy-to-use menus, people with poor eyesight and hearing can take advantage of technologies connectivity and entertaining features.
Another way technology powers an inclusive future is through virtual learning opportunities. In the past, people with disabilities have had to jump through hoops to gain even the most basic accommodations, leaving them frustrated and disheartened throughout their education. However, after the pandemic, schools began utilizing digital avenues to ensure everyone received an education despite the inability to show up in person. With screen sharing, video chats, and online courses, virtual learning has changed how disabled people navigate the school system.
In addition to remote school, technological advancements have enabled companies to offer at-home work arrangements for people with disabling ailments. Unfortunately, public spaces are often inaccessible and difficult to traverse for disabled people – specifically those with mobility impairments. However, the surge of employers shifting to hybrid or fully remote work has allowed disabled people to tailor their job to their needs instead of the other way around. Historically, the disability community has had high unemployment rates due to unaccommodating workplaces, which means remote opportunities could cause a potential influx in disabled workers.
Accessibility features and devices
Often, disabled folks have difficulty navigating public and online spaces because few and far between offer proper accommodations. However, recent tech developments have made physical and digital spaces more accessible through unique software and devices. For example, high-powered, AI-integrated wheelchairs allow users with little-to-no motor functions to move freely through cognitive controls with little-to-no motor functions. Additionally, accessible software design, auto-captioning programs, and AI solutions make it possible to integrate disabled folks into previously non-disabled spaces.
Digital community building
In the past, building a network and support system of disabled folks were restricted to in-person meetings, limiting community engagement. However, the widespread integration of social media and increased online activity have allowed people with disabilities to connect virtually. Finding a community dedicated to disability activism, engagement, and inclusion is critical for many disabled people, which is why online spaces have surged in popularity.
Though the world is far from accessible for many disabled folks, the onslaught of high-tech developments has made it easier for people with disabilities to live free from restriction. Between video conferencing allowing for remote work and school, online spaces creating disabled communities, and innovative features tailored toward accessibility, inclusivity is right around the corner.