Despite the fact that the majority of people now use the term “disability” to refer to people with impaired or absent abilities, it will soon be demoted to the same status as “handicapped” (in eyesight, speech, cognition, etc.). Despite significant progress over the last two decades, we are still not there in terms of digital accessibility. People’s perceptions of what it means to be disabled improve as more people become aware of the difficulties they face and the need for digital equality, for example. Despite the fact that most people are unfamiliar with the concept of digital accessibility, firm executives, public servants, and attorneys are becoming increasingly aware of the need to assist those who use assistive technology in making meaningful and productive use of technology.
As technology advances and becomes more prevalent in our lives, and as digital inclusion makes it easier for everyone to use that technology, the gap between those with and without disabilities is closing. Although we cannot claim that specific technology has solved every problem that a disabled person may face, it has made overcoming daily obstacles much easier. Because of scientific and technological advancements, it is possible that all or the majority of disabilities will be eliminated one day. We still have time on our side.
Let’s look at how blind people communicated, traveled, and bought things in the middle of the twentieth century to see how far technology has come in the last 50 years (total blindness).
Previously, there were few Braille materials, typewriters, and landlines available. We communicated over landlines, typed our writing on cumbersome typewriters in order to produce legible print, and had limited access to books, journals, and newspapers through mail-order blind libraries. We couldn’t read the soup cans or medication bottles because there were no Braille signs on the buildings. Even though we could hear the television, we couldn’t see it.
Unless you lived in a city with public transportation, cabs were prohibitively expensive in your area. There was no guarantee that rail or plane transportation would be available. We didn’t have any navigational aids or devices that could have told us where we were. Large interior environments were difficult to navigate, necessitating the use of specialized orientation services or government assistance.
Buying from Actual Stores
Even if you had a job and could travel freely, you needed the assistance of a business or store owner to obtain goods or services. This assistance was not always available. Despite the stress, some people may be able to shop independently.
Technology has advanced dramatically in the last 50 years!
Whether you call it digital access, digital equality, or digital inclusion, the examples below show how good, accessible technology and a few new concepts have helped us 50 years later by increasing our independence and moving us up the equality ladder in a variety of ways.
Technology that Aids Communication
We can now connect on a variety of devices, including mobile phones and computer workstations, thanks to Zoom. We generate reports from anywhere with Wi-Fi or a cellular signal by using word processors, emails, and text messages. We have the ability to read almost any magazine, newspaper, or book that comes to mind. Nowadays, there are several options for purchasing prescription bottles and grocery store items in cans, cartons, and packages. All of this is possible because superior assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, automatic captioning systems, and easily accessible digital content are available. We can now watch a wide variety of television programs thanks to the development 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.
Making Travel Plans Is Simple
Rail and air travel are now safe in many parts of the world, and using rideshare on a mobile device makes it simple to get around. GPS has increased our independence and made driving and walking easier. We can use augmented reality techniques from apps like AIRA and Be My Eyes to broadcast real-time assistance from a sighted person to our smartphones and navigate independently in new environments like massive buildings.
Online Shopping Is Gaining Popularity.
The ability to have virtually anything delivered directly to your door has made it far easier to obtain the items you desire in the last five years alone. We can now access products and services that we would not have known about if we had shopped in a physical store, in addition to having our purchases shipped to us. Furthermore, I do not believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will ever put an end to grocery delivery.
Despite progress, conditions remain far from ideal. There is still much work to be done to improve accessibility and make it the norm (expectation). Because they lack key accessibility elements, PDFs and web forms are sometimes inaccessible to people with disabilities. Travel would be easier if we had more options for where to go. It’s still difficult to shop on many e-commerce sites. Even just twenty years ago, however, life was far worse than it is today.
Accessibility Has Been Improved.
Thanks to all of these technological advancements, we’ve come a long way in terms of being able to perform mundane tasks that most people take for granted. Technology has enabled tremendous progress, but people have also worked hard to make life easier for the majority of people. “One person’s convenience is another person’s accessibility,” I recently heard. Those who are unable to drive or navigate a grocery store due to poor vision must use the supermarket delivery service.
The gap between those with and without disabilities will continue to close as technology advances. 5G networks, for example, as well as extremely fast AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) systems, will enable wearable technology to assist us in seeing, hearing, and comprehending what is going on around us. Web pages, multimedia, mobile applications, and basic office files are all more accessible, but research into other digital content accessibility is just getting started. Every aspect of our lives is being influenced by technology, from the climate controls in our homes to the touch screens on our appliances and exercise equipment. To achieve our goal of full inclusion, we must have complete access to all types of digital content.
Despite the fact that technological advancements have improved the lives of many of us, true digital equality remains a long way off. Whatever your point of view, digital access is here to stay. Let us embrace it and continue to improve it by bringing it to the attention of people, educating them, and collaborating so that it ceases to be a rare skill set that people avoid and becomes the norm for effective digital solutions that make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
On May 19, 2022, we will observe Global Accessibility Day and learn how we can all make everyone’s lives easier by making all digital devices more accessible. For more information on QualityLogic’s easy-to-use digital accessibility starter kit for your business, Click here.