Driverless cars and other automated tech to aid disabled

While we all might be looking forward to driverless cars and other automated technologies that will help us all have easier lives, there’s one group of people that it’s set to benefit the most: the disabled. Imagine the improvements to independence and quality of life that a blind person might feel once a driverless car is made available to them?

This is something that many companies are considering when developing their products in the future: not just making them useful for fully functioning people, but for those with disabilities as well. Often, those with inhibited movement or senses, are left out of product targeting as it’s not monetarily worthwhile to include them, but as automated technologies become more versatile and financially viable, it makes sense to tailor them to these grouops too, since they’re a relatively untapped market for certain products, especially technology, which is often driven by visual or haptic mediums.

It’s not a small market either. Altogether, there’s thought to be upwards of 1.3 billion people with some form of disability around the world, making it as important a market as China. That’s a huge potential for untapped commercial success.

However, in an interview with CBC, CEO of The Return on Disability Group, Rich Donovan, said that when creating these products, developers need to make sure that they don’t try and make disability products for disabled people, but great products for everyone.

Mr Donavan is the current CEO of The Return on Disability Group.

Mr Donavan is the current CEO of The Return on Disability Group.

Disability, Donovan says, “is part of a complex identity just like everybody else. So when you go home after a hard day of work, you are probably not going to turn on Disability Tonight. You’re going to turn on Entertainment Tonight.” Disabled people want the mainstream experience, just like everyone else, he said.

Much of this increased focus could have come from the growth of the paralympics and increased awareness of the plight and determination of disabled individuals. No longer perceived as lesser individuals, they’ve actually begun to inspire a lot of hope and drive in able bodied people as well. However it’s in the design of products that disabled individuals are having a real impact, with companies like IBM, and PepsiCo taking the advice of them to help craft new products that can appeal and be usable by everyone.

“When we can get rid of those silly things we call pencils, even get rid of those silly things we call keyboards and start to think of ideas and interact that way, that’s where this gets really exciting…. And that’s on the horizon,” said Donovan. “That’s coming fast and it’s going to be driven by disability.”

He may have a point too. Smart wearables, voice commands, automated cars, they’re all technologies that can be used whether you have one arm or two, can see or not or are confined to a wheelchair. Inclusive technology that’s easy for one person to use, should be easy for everyone if done right and companies are certainly starting to make that a reality.

What are some of the technologies you’ve seen produced hat you think would be good for those with disabilities as well?

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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