Have you ever watched a video of a baby hearing their mom’s voice for the first time thanks to a special hearing device?
What about people seeing color for the first time through a special set of glasses?
It’s unlikely that you’ll find anything as wholesome anywhere online.
Sadly, we take so many privileges for granted, privileges that others don’t have access to. Now, if there’s one thing clear from the above-listed tips, it’s that today, we have the technology that can help bridge that gap.
Keep in mind that some of these obstacles may be monumental. So, can technology be used to provide better education and job opportunities? What about major life-changing opportunities?
Here’s what the future of assistive technology brings. Here are some innovations that will revolutionize accessibility.
Driving is not a luxury or a privilege. In the modern world, it’s a basic necessity. The fact that many people are locked out of this due to their disability is a grave injustice. Fortunately, self-driving cars could fix this problem once and for all.
One of the biggest psychological obstacles, even for those with someone to drive them around, is the lack of independence. With a self-driving car, people with disabilities can master their commute without relying on others.
While some disabilities prevent people from working, others lack this option because they’re travel-restricted. Well, with the help of self-driving cars, they will get a much deeper employment pool.
Also, a self-driving car may increase access to quality healthcare (again, with less or no reliance on others).
Finally, the improvement in the quality of life will be incredible. As this technology becomes more sophisticated, reliable, and accessible, we’re bound to see a huge quality of life change for many people.
Video relay and hearing assistance
Almost 6% of all disabled people have difficulty hearing or are completely deaf. This makes it one of the most common disabilities, and it can now be solved with the help of technology.
For instance, even little things like Zoom meetings are a push forward. Standardization of video conferencing gave people with hearing difficulties a chance to communicate with sign languages. Before, this wasn’t a common option.
Communication tools like Nagish have real-time captioning powered by AI. This means that deaf people no longer have to rely on their ability to read lips or hope that the person they’re talking to knows sign language. This is a massive equalizer that definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
On the high-tech end, you can now get Bluetooth hearing devices that amplify the sound (for those with trouble hearing).
Blindness is one of the most limiting disabilities out there. Now, with all the braille-tech adaptations, it’s possible to drastically raise the quality of life for people with this disability.
First of all, braille smartphones are an incredible push forward. These phones have braille displays and advanced text-to-speech and speech-to-text capabilities.
Then, there’s a massive advantage in braille translation software. This way, you can translate digital text into braille.
Automatic text-to-speech is getting more accurate, making communication much simpler for people who cannot see. There might be more writing tools with this integration shortly.
Another boost for people who can’t see is the ability to take notes with braille notetakers. These portable devices can help you take notes and edit documents.
Needless to say, all of these devices were developed relatively recently. Before, none of this was possible. Braille typewriters have existed since the 1950s, but it took a bit more technology to raise this to a satisfactory level in the internet age.
Robots have advanced to that stage where they can provide serious daily living assistance to people with disabilities. Even people who can vacuum independently will likely buy a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, which means this won’t even feel like a disability-exclusive assistance move.
You see, robotic and automated devices can help people cook, clean, or even help them with shopping tasks. These are basic daily necessities that people with disabilities need help with. This way, they don’t need to look for help. Helping people become self-reliant can help improve their self-confidence and willpower, exactly what robotic assistance can do.
Other than this, a robotic wheelchair can be easier navigated and automate the movement without any need for the assistance of even tiresome self-navigation. It’s simply a superior way of providing people with disabilities with more mobility options.
Lastly, robots can be indispensable when it comes to therapy and rehabilitation. This is not just the case with physical therapy. With the right protocol programmed, a robot can provide much-needed assistance in cognitive therapy. In some scenarios, robots can even be programmed to provide emotional support. Naturally, this is not the only source of emotional support to which one should have access. Still, every bit helps.
Mobility impairment is a common symptom of spinal cord injuries. It can also occur due to a neurological disorder or another disability. With the help of an exoskeleton, a person suffering from one of these problems can move much easier and efficiently.
Generally speaking, there are three categories of exoskeletons:
- Powered exoskeletons: These are controlled with a machine, sometimes even controlled with a joystick that an injured person will have access to.
- Unpowered exoskeleton: This mechanical frame is designed to provide more stability and alleviate the pain from extra pressure.
- Hybrid exoskeletons: These may contain some functions of powered exoskeletons while being unpowered exoskeletons most of the time.
All three have in common the improvement of one’s stability and mobility. In some cases, their wearers may be unable to walk or even stand without them.
Nerve and sensory prosthetics have advanced incredibly far. The only problem here is the fact that they’re expensive and, as such, not universally available. However, here are some of the most advanced types that might, at one point in time, become a standard issue.
Myoelectric prosthetics can detect muscle movements in residual limbs. This way, you can virtually control your prosthetics with your thoughts, just like with real limbs. The prosthetic arm, for instance, can be programmed for virtually any movement that a real arm could pull off.
A microprocessor controls other advanced prosthetics. These are not as flexible as their myoelectric counterparts, but the technology is far more reliable.
Many people believe bionic prosthetics to be the future. They’re AI and robotics-powered, which provides them with the most natural possible experience. In some scenarios, these could even include touch and force sensors.
It’s also important to point out that 3D printing made a massive difference in manufacturing prosthetics. These prosthetics can be highly customized and even designed to be a perfect fit.
Ultimately, even if some of these tech trends are still imperfect or accessible to everyone, they still give people hope. Just a few decades ago, the idea that someone could hear via a device or see color again with the help of special glasses seemed futuristic. Today, we have prototypes of prosthetics that you can control by thoughts and even feel the sensation of touch. For people with disabilities, the future never looked so bright. It’s not just about accessibility but also about hope for a better tomorrow.