Did you know that there are an estimated 1 billion people around the globe who have a disability? Because their disability often prevents them from doing work, their poverty rate is almost twice as high as the general population
. On the other hand, we have witnessed extreme examples of the intelligence and world changing impact of those who are disabled in people like Stephen Hawking. In order to improve the quality of life and capability of the disabled in the workplace, there are many companies that are developing innovative technology-based solutions. Given the large numbers of disabled, there is an enormous opportunity to do well financially while making the world a better place.
Video Game Controllers
While we often think of controllers as the tactical devices that we use to play video games, there are other uses as well. If you think about how video games and their controllers are designed, it is the perfect application for those with disability. Video game controllers are used to control movement of characters within a game. Since this can be often non-intuitive, controllers have developed overtime to make these movements more natural and seamless. When you apply this knowledge of control and movement to disability, there is a great opportunity to leverage the lessons learned in game design to make movement more natural and seamless. Recently, an inventor modified a Nintendo Switch game controller for use with a wheelchair
. In addition, let’s not forget that improving quality of life is important as well. To tackle this issue, Microsoft recently launched an adaptive Xbox controller that makes is easier for the disabled to play video games
There are an estimated 1.5 million people around the world who are deaf and blind. For this group of people it can be virtually impossible to participate in the use of smartphone and computer technology without accommodation. Most of us are familiar with the intelligence and capabilities of deaf and blind people from the story of Hellen Keller. An entrepreneur in Southern Italy has taken on this unique challenge using a combination of sensors embedded in a hand-shaped glove. This glove then translates signals into digital inputs that can be inputted into a smartphone or computer and also communicates back to the glove
. This 2 way signal and receipt is essential to enabling deaf and blind people to participate in the technology revolution because at bi-directionality is at the heart of communication. It will be great once this technology becomes more advanced and mainstream to see what those who are deaf and blind build with technology especially given that there are block-based languages like Scratch that are extremely powerful and capable.
Vision Improving Glasses
Throughout the world, there are nearly 40 million blind people. However, the majority of the people have some ability to perceive light. Most of us are familiar with Google Glass which was initially designed to be an augmented reality solution for improved computing efficiency. Most recently, it has pivoted to become a solution for improved workplace efficiency in industrial settings
. However, there are also technologies that are being developed to better assist with this baseline capability of the blind by providing better contrast between light and dark. One of the biggest challenges that companies in this space have found is the weight of the devices can be prohibitive. In this regard, a partnership with Google or other virtual reality headset providers could be extremely beneficial. Tech companies excel in usability and user-centered design. Google Glass was extremely lightweight and most virtual reality googles don’t weight more than a few ounces. If innovators in this space could also utilize the improved cameras that are popular on modern day smartphones, we could see a scalable solution introduced in this space within the next few years.
Above, we have highlighted a few examples of the world changing work that is being done to help the nearly 1 billion people with disabilities through the intelligent use of technology. While there is more work to be done, it is especially exciting to see the multiple use cases for technology to make the world a better place. Ideally, at some point, established tech companies can begin to open up their API’s for those who are developing these solutions so that we can leverage the collective knowledge of the community to drive better outcomes for those who could use the assistance.