How Disabilities Have Helped us to Push Digital Boundaries

Many innovative technological breakthroughs over the past 10 years have been empowered by those with disabilities:

Accessibility is a basic human right,” Eve Andersson, Head of Google’s Accessibility.

We live in a world of incredible diversity and technical skill. Developments across the globe have created a world that is more accessible and fast paced, but for those living with disabilities, the developments in assistive technology are transforming lives for the better.  Many innovative technological breakthroughs over the past 5-10 years have been empowered by those with disabilities and here we praise those breakthroughs.

Google Glass
Google is famed for helping people around the world in a million different ways and the Google Glass developments of 2014/2015 show that Google are really pushing their boundaries. The smart headset device can be used to help those suffering from disabilities allowing them to get more involved with the latest world of tech. It’s possible to communicate with this wearable tech using just voice commands opening up a world of opportunity for those with hand or arm paralysis or restrictions. Google Glass also enables those with a disability to take and share photos, without using their hands. Not everyone has access to experience Google Glass at this point but for those who have, the technology is incredible, Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the American Association for People with Disabilities adds that applications such as the speech-to-text and face recognition give people with a variety of disabilities, real freedom.

Cognitive Computing
IBM have always been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of inclusive technology. They have developed some incredible applications and devices that have enabled those less able, to achieve their goals. More recent developments from IBM are based on Cognitive Computing and Artificial Intelligence such as a chip inspired by the human brain with brain-like capabilities which can be added to mobile devices. The ultimate aim of this technology is to work as an aid for the blind, be used as a home health monitoring system and to assist with public safety and ultimately, make it easier for individuals and organisations alike to integrate accessibility more easily.

Autonomous Vehicles
The development of self-driving or autonomous vehicles will improve the mobility of everyone, but studies show that self-driving vehicles will bring the most benefit to the ‘personal mobility of the disabled (56%), the visually impaired (42%) and the elderly (30%)’.

This technology has the potential to transform life for people who are not able to get a driver’s license. This can be those with severe disabilities or those with conditions such as epilepsy enabling them freedom to travel as well as employment.

Navigation Devices
Self-driving cars will need the most advanced navigation applications to ensure the safety of the drivers – but luckily we’ve come a long way since the Tom Tom. Developments like the Kapten PLUS Personal Navigation Device, specifically for wheelchair users enables those with disabilities the chance to navigate around the city streets safely giving them freedom to venture out alone. Or the Not Nav App designed by blind people, for blind people – with GPS navigation to assist blind people when they are out and about announcing locations, crossings and local area information. Apps and developments such as these, require a truly fresh way of thinking but can help to transform the lives of those less able.

Bionic Limbs
In 2014 the Deka Arm was invented, the first mind-controlled prosthetic arm. The project was developed to provide a better quality of life for veterans and amputees returning home from the war in Iraq. The difference between many other bionic developments is that the Deka Arm System blends multiple approaches; some functions are controlled by myoelectricity, (the device senses movement in the muscle groups via attached electrodes, then converts them into movements). These types of developments are true breakthroughs in technology and will push the boundaries for bionic body parts from eyes to legs.

Many of these developments discussed can be accessed and enjoyed by all types of people around the world, but when a need is acknowledged such as a disability, the development is given a stronger purpose and it is this that enables us to push boundaries.  “Accessibility problems of today are the mainstream breakthroughs of tomorrow” said Andersson, (Head of Google’s Accessibility).   We look forward to witnessing the incredible developments of today’s inventors, technologists and developers, giving people around the world the chance to enjoy technology in ways we’ve only dreamed of.

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