The difficulties that people with accessibility needs have when accessing the internet creates a skewed picture of just how many people use the web. Forbes highlights how, in the United Kingdom, the relative difficulty of accessing the web has led almost half of the non-internet users to be in the over-75s demographic.
When the perception of how difficult it is to access the internet entirely precludes some people from participating in a digital society, change has to happen. The good news? Innovation is starting to make a real difference.
Life cycle change
Real long-term change in assistive tech can only be achieved by looking at the entire tech landscape. For children to be comfortable and fully immersed in the world of digital tech, it’s important that they are assisted from a young age. This is especially important for children living with disabilities. Cerebral palsy is one of the most common disabilities in children that necessitates accessibility aids; as advocacy group CPFN (https://cpfamilynetwork.org/) highlights, that comes from a range of sources, including digital technology. Indeed, the National Institutes of Health recommend the use of digital communicative devices to not only help children participate in digital technology and, indeed, enhance their recovery. New services powering these devices are improving the level to which people living with disabilities can participate.
Services to aid
2020 has shown how tech companies can step in and provide a service for almost anything. The University of California, Irvine, developed an app in collaboration with Toyota that helped to smartly adapt to the surroundings of the user and provide a live descriptions. This, in turn, helped those with disabilities to conform to local restrictions and to continue living independently in what is a wildly changed modern landscape, where old processes are no longer quite as applicable. Big thinking like this, which looks to radically alter the experience of people living with disabilities, is being used in South Korea to great effect.
Societal and infrastructural change
In Busan, South Korea’s second city, infrastructure and technology have come together to create a framework for people living with disabilities. GPS and locational information tie together with tactile paving to create a system where people with sight and mobility issues can be guided through the city streets. According to VOA, while this is a work in progress, it has already shown a lot of promise in helping sidelined groups to be able to adapt to the fast pace of life in a built-up urban area like Busan. This sort of technology, which aims to provide exactly the same level of mobility to groups who sorely need it, creates a level of inclusion that normalizes disability in public spaces.
Inclusivity is the key. Helping people diagnosed with a disability to get online and interacting with the online community will improve their quality of life and independence, and extend the technology and knowledge the internet brings to all.