September 20, 2023
Convenience is a human desire; we like when things are simple and easy to do. The key to ease a consumer’s daily workload is to incorporate convenience into the design of goods and services. There’s no doubt about it, convenience sells.
Society as a whole is busy, and paying to save time and energy is often worth every penny. The drive for convenience to be woven into design has not only become popular in daily living but has improved access for the disability community.
Here are five broad categories of technology that have been designed to bring convenience for the general public yet benefit people with disabilities.
Smart devices, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, have now been on the market for about a decade and they continue to improve as time goes on. These devices can do a range of tasks all activated by voice or via a smartphone app. For example, smart devices create convenience by turning on and off lights, locking and unlocking doors, and adjusting the thermostat—even when one is out and about. This technology revolution has greatly increased the independence of many people within the disability community.
Smartphones and tablets, which everyone uses, have also revolutionized access for the disability community. From kindergarteners to great-grandparents, smartphones and tablets can benefit everyone in a variety of ways.
These devices have mainstreamed assistive technology. Prior to smartphones and tablets, people with disabilities had to purchase separate, expensive devices for each specific access need. Text-to-speech devices were thousands of dollars and had that singular function. Now, a smartphone or tablet can be purchased for a fraction of the price and it not only completes the task of text-to-speech but also allows people with disabilities to make phone calls and play games just like everyone else.
Smartphones and tablets also opened up accessibility for both the Blind and Deaf communities. There are apps that read printed text and features like FaceTime that allow for lip-reading and signing during a phone call. This hardly scratches the surface of what smartphones and tablets now do in providing access. With mainstreaming, these assistive technologies are no longer medical which has made them more cost-effective and discrete.
For people with limited manual dexterity, pop sockets and other smart device mounts have made smartphones and tablets even more accessible. While these mounts are beneficial to everyone in allowing selfies with one hand or providing better video quality, they provide important access for an individual who may have difficulty holding a smartphone or tablet in order to use it just like everyone else without dropping it.
During COVID-19, web conferencing soared. Even though these platforms, like Zoom, existed prior to the pandemic, the need for everyone to gain access during the pandemic has driven the push for accessibility to be improved for the disability community.
Web conferencing allows for social distancing and provides the convenience of participating in a meeting or event from almost anywhere. This convenience leads to accessibility in that people with disabilities, some of whom are not able to drive or experience unexpected chronic pain flareups, are able to participate just like everyone else from the comfort of their own home.
When the pandemic comes to a close, web conferencing options need to continue to be utilized. This will provide continued access for the disability community and for the working parent or a person who cannot afford to fly to a conference; it will be beneficial for the general public as a whole.
Kyann loves her Keurig and Daman loves his beer keg. Kyann begins her morning with a cup of coffee and is able to complete this task independently because of her Keurig. After a long day at work, Daman enjoys ending his day with a mug of IPA. He is able to pour his own glass because of his favorite piece of assistive technology, his keg.
The Keurig and the keg are both pieces of technology that have been created for the convenience of the general public but are used by many people with disabilities to be independent and complete tasks just like everyone else.
Convenience is a desire for those of us with disabilities as we are human too. This convenience may be doing a task by one’s self rather than asking and waiting for another to assist. When convenience drives mainstream products, the disability community is empowered with independence.
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