Tech for All Mankind
Simplified and Accessible
This week, we’re focusing on how technology is stepping up to meet the needs of those with physical and cognitive challenges.
There’s so much about emerging technology that is fun and frivolous and desirable that we often forget about those who stand to gain the most from tech advances — people whose lives can be legitimately transformed by consumer products.
A couple weeks ago Google unveiled a smartphone feature called Action Blocks to help users with cognitive disabilities. Based on Google Assistant, it allows users to create custom commands to do almost anything on their phones with the tap of a single icon.
It’ll simplify regular activities, easing use for people with disabilities.
“Think about the last time you did something seemingly simple on your phone, like booking a rideshare. To do this, you had to unlock your phone, find the right app and type in your pickup location. The process required you to read and write, remember your selections and focus for several minutes at a time. For the 630 million people in the world with some form of cognitive disability, it’s not that easy,” wrote Ajit Narayanan.
Action Blocks will compress what could be a convoluted task for someone with cognitive difficulties into a manageable gesture.
Here’s the coolest part: Action Blocks are still in the testing phase, and if you’re the caregiver or family member of someone who could benefit, you can reach out to Google to become an accessibility tester!
Navigation for All
This week in honor of World Sight Day, Google did another really wonderful thing they deserve some attention for. They rolled out a new Maps feature giving people the ability to receive detailed voice guidance, and new types of verbal announcements for walking trips.
In a truly moving blog post we’d strongly encourage you to read in full, Google Business Analyst Wakana Sugiyama describes the need this way:
“Think about the last time you walked to a new place. How many streets did you cross to get there? Which intersections were the most complex? How did you prepare before making a turn? And how did you know you weren’t lost?
Now think about making that same trip if you were one of the 36 million people who are blind worldwide, or one of the 217 million people more who have moderate-to-severe vision impairments.”
If you are able-bodied, it’s probably not often you think of the extent of the need for solutions to help those who aren’t, or of the wealth of opportunities in tech to create new ways of helping people navigate life.
Canadian company eSight, who makes assistive technology for the legally blind, has entered into a pretty groundbreaking agreement with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The company’s “eSight 3” sight-enhancing glasses were added to the VA’s Federal Supply Schedule, 130,000 legally blind veterans have been identified as recipients of the glasses. A further 1 million other veterans who suffer from visual impairments can also be helped down the road.
eSight uses high-resolution screens, smart algorithms and a cutting-edge camera to help those with vision loss see more clearly and live independently. It provides a non-surgical, wearable solution that functions by stimulating synaptic activity from the remaining photoreceptor function in the user’s eyes, and provides the brain with increased visual information to naturally compensate for gaps in the user’s field of view.
That — the idea of a million sight-impared veterans helped by emerging tech; the idea of millions of sight-impared folks across the planet more easily navigating their paths; the idea of physical and cognitive limitations rendered easier to bear by technology is what makes us feel good, humbled and grateful here at BiTE HQ.
These are the advances that really matter.