The purpose of technology by and large is to help make life easier for us. By performing tasks on an automated basis, by organising our information, and even by doing physical graft, our devices and software can make work that much quicker so that we have more time to do the things we love.
But the unfortunate thing about commercial technology in general is that it doesn’t always target the people who most need the help to make life easier. There’s plenty of technology aimed to help the average punter do more, but not quite so much out there for people who need the aid to do more simple tasks. In fact the complex interfaces, unnecessary features and fiddly input methods sometimes even go as far as to practically ‘exclude’ such people from using some commercial technology at all. So much more could be done to make the tech we use more accessible and more universal, but as yet it has yet to happen. Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities for the future that could make a world of difference…
If you’re a commercial business and you own a building, then you will be legally required to ensure that that building has disabled access so that nobody is unable to enter and do business with you. On the internet though there is no such rule and as such many websites are difficult to read for those with poorer vision, or are more complex to navigate.
To solve this problem, you could easily imagine a central governing body that would provide certification for websites that stuck to a series of guidelines. These guidelines could encourage the use of larger fonts, clearer graphics and greater contrast between colours and if a website met these conditions then it would be able to display the graphic to demonstrate that fact. Better yet, such a body could help to usher in new technology that would work across platforms, and to fight for features such as the ability to increase font sizes. What would the sites themselves stand to gain? A better reputation and an increased market that would include those people who were previously unable to navigate there.
The same governing body could also take it upon itself to test hardware and to make sure that it is suitable for everyone. Little design mistakes such as making it hard to plug a laptop in or making the power chord too short can actually render hardware unusable for people who only have one hand to set their technology up and could easily be avoided if only companies were made aware.
Bring Back Buttons!
Touchscreen phones and tablets make life a lot easier for many people who find it more intuitive to reach out and touch icons and links rather than trail a mouse around the screen, but they certainly aren’t for everyone. Buttons are good because they provide haptic feedback and because they don’t move, which means they’re considerably easier to find and to operate if you struggle with coordination.
The downside of course is that buttons take up space on a device (making less space for a nice big screen), but there are certainly ways around this (think flip-phones or sliding out keyboards). Even just a few buttons on the side that could be programmed to perform commonly needed functions could make a world of difference.
Another way that you could potentially address problems with sight would be to provide a way for sites and software to be read in brail. Already there are slate devices you can plug into a desktop that will essentially perform this task, but in the future we can hope for more sophisticated solutions. Malleable screens demonstrated at last year’s CES for instance showed how smartphones of the future may be able to provide physical keyboards by altering the shape of the screen and providing peaks to type on. Imagine a screen that can rise in order to create brail wherever the writing would normally be positioned…
And of course none of this is even including the more science fiction technology such as direct brain-computer interfaces. As technology gets better there are only going to be more options for people who can’t access it in the usual ways – the world is gradually getting bigger!
About the Author:
Jenny Wadlow, the author of this post, is a freelance blogger, who often writes for Freedom Lift Systems, leading manufacturer of outdoor wheelchair lifts. Jenny loves camping and goes trekking on the weekends.