5 Technologies That Will Shape Accessibility

Laptop next to turntable

In the last 100 years, humankind has seen more significant evolutions in technology than ever before in our history. However, science is pointing to an even more rapid progress that will see faster, more efficient and smarter technology that can be accessed and used on a daily basis. The technology we see now has a brighter future ahead.

1. Smartphones

Smartphone being used as a GPS

Smartphones like iPhones and Android phones have left a huge impact on the way we navigate through life by transforming a communication device into that of a computer. Thanks to Tecla and accessibility features built into smartphones like Switch Access, mobile phones have become accessible to even more people to have instant access to all that the Internet has to offer at any minute of the day. Built-in cameras are replacing digital cameras, calendar apps are replacing agendas, social media is replacing face-to-face communication (as some would argue), and so many more tasks are facing the reality of media convergence. As the competition among smartphone retailers increase, the pressure to create innovative features on each year's new model means we have much more to see in the capabilities of our future inclusive smartphones.

2. Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a recent phenomenon that utilizes Wireless Internet to connect multiple devices and utilize their capabilities together. For example, connecting the tecla-e with a Philips Hue Lamp will allow a user to adjust the lights in their home with their assistive switch. The future looks like this: anything that can be connected, will be connected. Therefore, the Internet of Things will bring more efficiency into our lives by eliminating human interaction between different devices to allow our technology to speak to each other and perform the mundane tasks for us.

3. Virtual Reality

VR headset on display

The term virtual reality (VR) is defined as “an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment”. When you think about virtual reality with this framework, it’s not hard to imagine the different contexts that this emerging technology can be applied to beyond the gaming world. Creating a fake environment before our eyes, without the consequences or interferences from the real world, can be extremely useful in a variety of scenarios such as in education, workplace training, and healthcare research to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities and diseases. It's also being used as a therapy tool to expose people with physical disabilities to environments that have barriers for them to access.

4. Wearable Devices

Fitness trackers

Image Source - (TechRadar)

The health trend of wearable fitness trackers has only recently reached the masses and doesn't appear to be going anywhere. Today's model conducts basic measurements such as the number of steps taken, calories burned, heart rate, and quality of sleep, leaving much anticipation towards future capabilities. Imagine a fitness tracker that scans your body for specific ailments, displays the muscles in your body that are being targeted during an activity, or comments on your performance in a sport or exercise. There is much more to be explored as the technology evolves that will give people more control over and awareness of their health.

5. Artificial Intelligence

When you think of the future of personal technology and its role in everything we encounter, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often mentioned for creating a human-like consciousness in a machine. By using "problem-solving," "learning," and other cognitive behaviour associated with humans, AI is able to perform faster and produce more accurate results. From Siri answering your deepest questions to Netflix recommending a TV show you will like, to Spotify curating a customized playlist of music that suits your taste, AI has seeped into our lives and influence the cultural products we consume. Although movies, television shows, and novels tell us that the future of AI is a future with highly-intelligence robots co-existing with us with the potential to wipe the human race, more realistic expectations include fully automated transportation, the elimination of jobs, and solving complex problems like curing diseases and artificial climate change. AI is already improving the interaction between wheelchair users, blind, and deaf people and their environment with voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. The next step for more accessible environments with AI is the integration of voice assistants in public spaces.

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