According to Mary Pat Radabaugh, Director of IBM National Support Center for Persons with Disabilities in 1993, technology makes things easier for people without disabilities. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.
This quote remains relevant to this day, especially in a scenario in which 27% of the United States’ population lives with a disability. Assistive technologies, focused on promoting accessibility and inclusion, play a very important part for the global community with disabilities. It is about them that we will talk about today, so get your coffee cup and notepad, and let’s dive into the universe of assistive technology!
Assistive technology can be described as a set of resources and services created with the goal of promoting more accessibility and autonomy for people with disabilities. Its aim is to make this part of the population feel more included in society and capable of performing their daily tasks in an equitable manner to people without disabilities.
Overall, assistive technology acts as an aide to amplify the abilities of those with disabilities. We can find both as softwares and technological equipment, as in medical, educational and even design services. But do not worry, we are still going to dive deeper into more examples of what an assistive technology is further along.
This term was first used in 1988, when Congress passed The Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act. This legislation increased the access, funding and availability of assistive technology for all people with disabilities. Later on, The Assistive Technology Act was amended to it.
Nowadays we also have in our favor the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Assistive technology exists to promote more inclusion, autonomy and equity for all people with disabilities. In general, its goal is to ensure a greater quality of life for these people, making it so that there are not as many barriers to performing daily and professional tasks.
It is worth mentioning that assistive technologies, aside from being essential for those who have a permanent disability, are also quite helpful for people with temporary or situational disabilities.
So you can better understand the difference between them, imagine a deaf person. They have a permanent disability. Now picture someone with an ear infection that cannot hear for a few days. This is a temporary disability. Lastly, think of someone that is in a very loud place and cannot understand anything that they are hearing. They are going through a situational disability.
According to some global definitions, there are 12 categories of assistive technologies. It is really important for these categories to exist, because it is only with this level of organization that this area of knowledge can be enhanced, in terms of research, development and even public policies.
So how about we find out what are they?
We have already mentioned some examples above, inside each assistive technology category, but let’s dive deeper into this universe!
These are softwares focused on people with visual disabilities and/or low vision. Screen readers are responsible for translating all written content on the screen into voice, including images, as long as they have an alternative description. Meanwhile, image amplifiers are related to web pages’ zoom in and zoom out tools.
Hand Talk is the largest Sign Language translation platform in the world. It offers two assistive technology solutions: the Hand Talk App and the Hand Talk Plugin. With the help of 3D virtual translators Hugo and Maya and Artificial Intelligence, the first performs translation from English to ASL (American Sign Language) and from Portuguese to Libras (Brazilian Sign Language), working as a pocket translator. Meanwhile, the second translates all written content in websites from Portuguese to Libras, and will soon be available from English to ASL!
Be My Eyes is a platform that connects people with visual disabilities with people who can see. So they can “lend their eyes” to help out with daily tasks, such as checking the expiration date on a product or the color of an outfit at a store.
These canes are more technological than most, being able to alert the person if they are approaching an obstacle on their path, like a tree in the middle of the street, or a chair at an office. They work by emitting sound or vibrating alerts, helping the person with a visual disability to walk around more independently.
Inside the prostheses category, they help people with physical disabilities to walk around more freely and autonomously, even helping them in sports practices.
Stand tables work as supports for people with physical disabilities or reduced mobility to walk standing up, improving their blood circulation and decreasing leg swelling, often caused by long hours sitting in a wheelchair.
It is essential that we keep promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in society with autonomy, and assistive technologies are great allies in this mission! With more investments, comes the possibility to develop and build new products and tools more focused on the pains and needs of people with disabilities.
Oh, but do not forget that it is also very important to rely on people with disabilities themselves in this process, alongside expert professionals in technology and accessibility.
There is still a long way to go in regards to implementing assistive technologies in the workplace. But not all is lost! There are many actions, from the simplest to the most complex ones, that you can start implementing in your organization to ensure more accessibility for your staff and clients. Check out some ideas!
Implementing assistive technologies in your business, aside from being part of the law, is also a strategic investment. So start now learning more about them, understanding what makes sense for your company the most. A tip for a great first step in this accessibility journey is to count on the Hand Talk Plugin in your website. Talk to Hand Talk specialists to learn more!