Technology Advancements for Disabled People: #DisabilityPrideMonth

A paralyzed patient using an electric wheelchair. Photo by Jon Tyson.

Often overlooked, assistive technology for disabled people has had numerous advancements over the past decade. It helps people with disabilities like visual impairment, speech impairment, intellectual disability, or motion disability. From providing help with communication through touchless phones for paralyzed patients to helping with reading despite a visual impairment, these assistive technologies are truly changing the lives of disabled people for the better. As we enter a technological, evolving, and driven world, there are more and more modern, advanced solutions to centuries-old problems for disabled people. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Sesame Phone

Today’s communication and connection methods are highly dependant on the use of phones — more specifically, smartphones. Usually touchscreen, these devices are commonplace and can be used by almost anyone. However, for people with limited mobility, it’s sometimes hard, or even impossible, to use a touchscreen smartphone.

The Sesame Phone is a completely touch-free smartphone, designed by and for people with disabilities. It works by tracking a user’s head movements using the phone’s front-facing camera. To unlock the phone, it uses facial recognition and then uses its camera’s input to move the phone’s cursor across the screen. Voice control is integrated to provide a truly hands-free experience for accessing the device. To turn the phone just say “Open Sesame” and it will wake up and start tracking you.

The Sesame Phone has a four-step process. Photo by Sesame Enable.

Eyes First by Microsoft

Gaming is generally thought to be used with either a console controller or your keyboard or mouse. However, Microsoft is working on developing tech for people with mobility disabilities by introducing a system to play games with just your eyes.

Eyes Frist games are powered by Windows 10’s various eye-tracking APIs. They work with Windows 10 Eye Control, which also helps users control their computer with just their eyes. Eyes First gaming was introduced to get people used to Microsoft’s eye-tracking accessibility tools so that they will be more comfortable using programs like Windows 10 Eye Control. You can learn more about it here.

Dot Watch

We usually see braille on signs under English text, or in books specifically for visually impaired people. Alongside that, smartwatches, or just watches in general, require users to see what is happening on the watch’s screen. This isn’t possible for people who have a visual impairment. To make this technology more accessible to visually impaired people, Dot made a watch that converts text into braille. Dot helps the blind access messages, tweets, even books anywhere and at any time.

The watch has four cells that contain six braille mechanisms which can raise or lower to create braille letters/words. This watch can also connect to a user’s phone via Bluetooth so that he/she can get email or text notifications translated onto their Dot watch. See how the Dot watch has changed someone’s life below.

Should we expect more advancements?

Absolutely; the global market for Disabled and Elderly Assistive Technology estimated at US$21 Billion in the year 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of US$31.5 Billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6% over the analysis period 2020–2027. As we enter a technological age, innovation is inevitable. However, the main target area for companies making this technology should be lowering costs.

“I use a tablet with a braille keyboard and a braille display so I can get information in braille or through speech and this is about $5,500,” says Eric Duffy, director of the assistive technology team at the National Federation of the Blind. Recent research shows that disabled people in America are less likely to even use technology due to rising costs, with an estimated 23% report never going online. Although there is a projected market increase, “there are no clear signs that the burden of covering such costs will fall primarily on anyone else but the users” says Sintia Ratu, writer for U.S.News.

🔑 Takeaways

  1. Advancements in assistive technologies are vast and varied, helping people with various disabilities.
  2. From visual impairments to mobility disabilities, modern solutions to centuries-old problems are being used by various startup companies.
  3. Although there is a projected increase in the assistive technology market, companies should be aware of the increased prices of products that demotivate disabled people from ever using them.

Citations

Thank you so much for reading!

Shivam Syal is a 16 y/o disruptive innovator, computer science enthusiast, and emerging entrepreneur. Currently, he is looking for ways to use management and technology to address social inequalities arising out of unequal opportunities that are caused by disabilities, socioeconomic status, and global disparities.

Connect with him here 👇

shivamsyal.com | linkedin.com/in/shivamsyal | github.com/shivamsyal

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17 y/o disruptive innovator, computer science enthusiast, and emerging entrepreneur

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Shivam Syal

Shivam Syal

17 y/o disruptive innovator, computer science enthusiast, and emerging entrepreneur

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