Technology & Accessibility

I hold what might be construed to be a biased opinion about the potential of technology contribution to accessibility in general. Yes, at this point in time there is not much that technology can do to help physically and mentally challenged persons to live a much better life that both respect their independence as well as enable them to realize their full potential as individuals. However, this should not mean that the current technology we have should not be used to enable the “disabled” to enjoy the modern life that the rest of society enjoys. I was reading an article at PC world about accessibility of the iPhone; from all the reviews I have read about the iPhone is a marvelous piece of technology but with all the advances it represents, without accessibility capabilities it remains an exclusionary device to the physically challenged.

The multi-touch UI makes it significantly hard for a blind person to use unless screen reading capabilities are included to provide feedback about which buttons are about to be pressed. I don’t think this is completely out of Apple’s engineering prowess; besides, lets think of this from a broader perspective: the lack of physical keys in the phone (and perhaps the recently released iPod Touch) makes it hard to operate without looking at the keypad but with accessibility features it becomes a win for those who rely on the technology exclusively as well as a boon to those who would like to fiddle with their phone without looking at the blessed virtual keypad.

Accessibility is increasingly an important topic that has featured prominently in the ratification of the ODF (Open Document Format) as a standard. Initially accessibility was not properly accounted for in the standard but there are efforts to incorporate accessibility which makes sense since it is an international standard with support from large corporations and governments alike. While corporations are ultimately interested in creating a market for their products which include governments around the world, then it is upon government to ensure that their procurement policies foster the inclusion of accessible features. Additional information about ODF accessibility efforts can be found here.

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