Technological progress over the past 50 years has been utterly astonishing. The internet has only existed for thirty-one years, and has only become widely used more recently. In the last 10 years, the introduction of smart phone has both connected the world, and simultaneously put all of its knowledge in the palm of your hand. The pace of technological innovation is exponential as we currently see the real-world applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
I truly believe we are on the cusp of fantastic things, particularly when it comes to assistive technology. Every day we are taking steps toward a more accessible world. Did you know that for the first time ever, a project led by the University of Tübingen in Germany has helped a person with motor neurone disease to express himself in full sentences using a new technology capable of reading his thoughts? That was in March!
The future of assistive tech is bright.
Putting our foot on the gas post-pandemic
The pandemic and scramble to online working and education did a lot to increase awareness of assistive technology and its many uses. People are beginning to see the numerous benefits of assistive technology from increasing accessibility to aiding productivity. Society is also starting to have a better understanding of the spectrum of neurodiversity and the ways in which people access the world.
As we move forward, the use of assistive tech is becoming more and more commonplace, and I hope that this continues to be the case. Netflix recently reported that 80% of people watching their platform use subtitles. Most have no hearing loss but find that captions help to focus attention and boost comprehension. As assistive tech reaches new audiences and sectors, we can develop it even further as people find new and creative ways to put the tech to good use. From stair-climbing wheelchairs and accessible gaming controllers to captioning software that can convey tone and meaning, assistive tech has the opportunity to truly level the playing field.
Diversity and inclusion
The world is a diverse place, and our working environment should reflect this. When organisations consist only of people from the same backgrounds and beliefs, they often leave diverse ideas and perspectives behind and create tech that only speaks to a narrow cohort of society. As we move forward, tech companies should ensure diversity and inclusion is always front of mind. It’s great to see more businesses taking an active approach to diversity and inclusion post-pandemic but we need to keep these important conversations going.
Assistive tech will no longer be an afterthought
An accessible future means businesses making assistive technology available by default, rather than it being only considered when somebody calls for help. Businesses need to ensure they are arming their teams with the tools they need to do the best job possible, and offering them assistance before they even encounter a problem.
The aim is a more accessible world and assistive technology has so much to offer. I’m sure in a matter of years we will be seeing assistive tech that we currently couldn’t dream up if we tried. Ultimately, the accessibility conversation needs to continue on. We as a society need to ensure we’re putting our foot on the gas when it comes to developing tech and making cultural changes to create a world accessible to everyone. I’m positive about the direction we’re heading. Let’s keep going.
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