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Engineering and law make tech more accessible

25 Jun, 2013

Efforts to include people with disabilities in technology-based work and leisure are making progress, according to recent news stories.

According to an AP story, technology companies have been directing research as well as sales at disabled consumers. “Apple, for example, is incorporating technologies such as voice recognition and screen readers, which can synthesize text into speech, into all of their products, rather than offering them as add-ons,” said the AP.

Even more advanced are programs like GoTalk NOW and TapSpeak Sequence which “allow users to combine text, pictures and symbols with audio programs that put voice to thoughts and ideas.” And, blind people can convert emails to spoken word and use programs to read websites.

An even larger segment is the rapidly growing senior population, who have until recently been neglected by many of Silicon Valley’s youthful designers and entrepreneurs. No longer. As a San Jose Mercury News story said, “From in-home sensors that monitor when a senior leaves the house or takes medicine, to wireless technology that allows elderly patients to get medical treatment without leaving home, this emerging technology can dramatically improve lives for seniors and entire families, according to tech business leaders and experts on aging.”

One upcoming technology is being marketed as Lively, a program which tracks elderly in their homes. Sensors memorize people’s routines and if something is amiss, it notifies family or friends through text messages or email.

But sometimes technological changes need the help of the government. Recently, the FCC Enforcement Bureau settled two cases that will compel manufacturers of digital wireless handsets to make their devices compatible with modern hearing aids. Given the rapid pace of development of both telephones and hearing aids, standards need to be updated frequently.

Speed Matters believes that either by economic incentive or by government decree everyone must be able to access the benefits of the tech revolution. Everyone.

High-tech gains get disabled people into workforce (AP, Jun. 23, 2013)

Silicon Valley poised to take lead on technology for seniors (San Jose Mercury News, Jun. 21, 2013)

FCC enforces hearing aid compatibility rules to benefit consumers with hearing disabilities (FCC, Jun. 21, 2013)


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