I’ve been visiting the A-Day (Accessibility Day) in Austria for years now and it is still interesting to be there. You may wondering what this has to do with technology. Let me explain.
The “A-Day” is a conference for exchanging experiences and information about diverse topics related to accessibility, from physical disability to blindness and deafness. The whole conference is accessible, and everything that is said is interpreted in sign language and written text.
My first time at this conference was a strange experience. I’d never seen anything like this before and I was deeply impressed how technology has transformed the lives of people with disabilities. Starting from tools like screenreaders over wheelchairs with joystick control and prosthetics up to working on a computer via eye-tracker - all these things were used or introduced during the conference. I was never aware that a simple conversation between a blind person and a deaf person is not possible without technology, and this is just one example.
Here are some key facts about disability:
· Around a billion people worldwide have a disability - this is one in five people in Europe and America
· Many of them are excluded from work and social life
· Their poverty rate is about twice that of other people
So as the conference shows in a very impressive way, for this huge group of people technology is not merely welcome but vital. It can improve their quality of life significantly and help them to contribute more in both work life and social life.
In the listening about facial recognition this week we heard about the risks of this technology. But the same technology can help some people to access a computer screen. There are benefits and risks in nearly every technology. The question is, who takes the responsibility in how to use them? Moreover, how do we make sure that all this creative, innovative and amazing technology is affordable for people, such as the disabled, for whom it will be most useful?