Despite the fact that most people now use the term “disability” to describe a person with limited or no abilities (in eyesight, speech, cognition, etc.) and that it is a far better term than “handicapped,” “disability” will one day be relegated to the same status. A tremendous amount of progress has been made in the field of digital accessibility over the last two decades. For example, more people are becoming aware of the difficulties people face and the importance of digital equality, elevating the status of what it means to be disabled. Even if the majority of people are unaware of what digital accessibility entails, corporate leaders, government officials, and legal professionals are increasingly aware of the need to assist people who use assistive technology in using technology in a productive and meaningful manner.
As technology becomes more prevalent in our lives and digital inclusion makes it easier for everyone to use it, the gap between disabled and non-disabled people narrows. Although we are not yet at the point where we can say that specific technology has eliminated all of the problems that a person with a disability may face, it has made dealing with life’s difficulties significantly easier. Even though I believe that science and technology will one day eliminate all or the vast majority of disabilities, I recognize that this day is still a long way off. Even though I won’t be able to attend the event, I can fantasize about it.
Consider what it was like for a blind person to communicate, travel, and shop in the middle of the twentieth century to get a sense of how far technology has progressed in the last 50 years.
There are landlines, typewriters, and Braille materials available.
We had limited access to books, periodicals, and newspapers through blind-specific libraries that mailed them to us. We couldn’t read the labels on medicine bottles or soup cans, and there were no Braille signs in the buildings. We could hear but not see what was on television.
In the past, there were few transportation options.
Cabs, if they were available in your area, were prohibitively expensive unless you lived in a large city with public transportation. There was no guarantee that passengers would be able to travel by train or plane. There were no instruments to help us find our way or identify our location. Large indoor venues were difficult to navigate, necessitating the use of orientation services or the assistance of the government.
Shopping in Real Stores
Even if you had a job and could get around on your own, you needed help from the company or store owner to buy products and services. This help was not always available. Some people can go shopping on their own, but it can be quite stressful.
Technology has come a long way in the last 50 years! Whether you call it digital access, digital equality, or digital inclusion, the examples below show what good, accessible technology and many innovative ideas have done for us 50 years later in terms of making us more independent and moving us up the equality ladder in a variety of ways.
Using Zoom, we can now communicate on a variety of devices, from cell phones to computer workstations. We generate reports from anywhere with a Wi-Fi or cell signal by using word processors, email, and text messaging. We can read almost any magazine, book, or newspaper that comes to mind. Prescription bottles and canned, boxed, and packaged grocery store items are now widely available. Excellent assistive technology, such as screen readers, magnifiers, automated captioning systems, and easily accessible digital content, has contributed to this. We can now watch a variety of television shows thanks to the introduction of descriptive video services (DVS). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has resulted in the majority of buildings having Braille labels on room signs and elevator buttons.
It’s Easy to Plan a Trip
Rail and air travel are now safe in many parts of the world, and mobile ridesharing makes it simple to get around cities. GPS has increased our flexibility and made walking and driving more convenient. Apps like AIRA and Be My Eyes use augmented reality to stream live assistance from a sighted person to our mobile devices, allowing us to walk independently in unfamiliar environments like large buildings.
Shopping Has Gone Digital
The ability to have virtually anything delivered directly to one’s home has made it significantly easier to obtain what one desires in the last five years. Not only has online shopping enabled us to have items mailed to us, but it has also provided us with access to products and services that we would not have known about if we had shopped in a store. Furthermore, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery delivery will continue to exist.
Yes, things have improved, but they are still far from ideal. Accessibility still requires significant effort to improve and become the norm (expectation). PDFs and web forms are frequently inaccessible to people with disabilities because they lack basic elements that would allow them to be used. We could make travel easier if we had more freedom in where we went, but shopping on many e-commerce sites remains difficult. However, life is far better today than it was even twenty years ago.
Accessibility Has Improved As A Result Of Technological Advancements.
All of these advancements have brought us a long way toward being able to perform routine tasks that most people take for granted. Technology has enabled much progress, but much of it has also been designed to make life easier for the majority of people. A common adage is “one person’s convenience is another person’s accessibility.” Food delivery benefits many people, but those who are unable to drive or navigate a grocery store due to poor vision must have it.
Technology will continue to help bridge the gap between people with and without disabilities. Wearable technology, for example, will be able to see, hear, and comprehend what is going on around us thanks to 5G networks and ultra-fast AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) systems. Access to digital information such as web pages, multimedia, mobile applications, and standard office documents is improving, but access to some digital content is only now being investigated. Technology continues to infiltrate every aspect of our lives, from the touch displays on our appliances and workout equipment to the climate controls in our homes. If we are to realize our dream of full inclusion, we must also have full access to various types of digital content.
Even though technological progress has improved the lives of millions, true digital equality remains a long way off. Whatever your point of view, digital access is here to stay. Accept it and keep improving it by raising awareness, teaching people, and collaborating until it is no longer a specialized skill set that people try to avoid and becomes the norm for effective digital solutions that make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
On May 19, 2022, we will celebrate Global Accessibility Day and learn how we can all make everyone’s lives easier by making all digital technologies more accessible. Click here to learn more about QualityLogic’s simple digital accessibility starter kit for your company.