Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that we do not realize that while performing simple acts like updating our smart phones, tablets or laptops we are using a vast variety of assisted technologies. There are free and low tech assistive technology apps that can help people read, write, organize, and much more. Assistive technology is any item, software, application, product or system that is used in order to improve, maintain or increase the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. It is an umbrella term that covers systems and services related to delivery of assisted products and services.
Reportlinker.com announces the release of the report “Global Disabled and Elderly Assistive Technology Industry” – 5 Billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 6% over the analysis period 2020-2027. Mobility Assistance, one of the segments analyzed in the report, is projected to record a 6.5% CAGR and reach US$10.6 Billion by the end of the analysis period. After an early analysis of the business implications of the pandemic and its induced economic crisis, growth in the Assistive Furniture segment is readjusted to a revised 6.2% CAGR for the next 7-year period.
The U.S. Market is estimated at $6.2 Billion, while China is forecast to grow at 5.6% CAGR.
The advancement in technology has not been very fast for the people with disabilities. Much of the assisted technology remains limited, expensive and bulky.
Who can benefit from assistive technology?
We are at an intersection where technological advancement can greatly change the life of differently abled people. Accessible technology is also a matter of equity for people with disabilities, irrespective of age.
We are already witnessing the shift in type of assistive technology with the use of AI, robotics, sensors technologies etc which has help overcome several barriers for people with disabilities. This along with the rise in an aging global population, the market opportunity for assisted technology is looking at a wide horizon.
Assistive technology can help
- people with disabilities
- elderly people
- people with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and stroke
- people with mental health conditions including dementia and autism
- people with gradual functional decline.
The types of assistive technology that can be used will depend on the respective disability. But the one’s available today are trying to cover a wide bracket.
Top trends in assertive technology
Accessible Technique and inclusive design:
Any mainstream technology that also thinks of integrating the needs of disabled individuals while designing is called assisted technology.
Inclusive design are design of any products, services and environments that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.
Today, the top guns in technology market like Apple, Microsoft and Google are gaining recognition for their services and products that contain in built features for customization that allow people with disabilities to improve their experience.
The developers at Google are focusing on ensuring various systems to address the needs of people with vision, hearing, dexterity and cognitive needs. This includes ChromeVox screen reader and adjustable magnification or contrast aid and a keyboard guide.
Apple’s famous smart phones now have been integrated with accessibility features like Switch control, voice over, Live Listen. We cannot deny the advantage of these features for everyone, even though they were customized for people with disability.
Artificial intelligence and Big data
Noteworthy innovations in artificial intelligence are improving the everyday work place experience of people with disability.
Development in features like predictive text, visual recognition, speech to text transcription have now expanded their scope of application to various products and services in turn expanding the employment opportunities for disabled.
Several applications with AI are currently in use like Microsoft’s Seeing AI which describes people, text, and object aloud for people with low vision. Prologuo2Go is a customized augmentative and alternate communication (AAC) for people without speech to communicate with symbols or speech generating devices. AI has been proving as a great boost in workplace for everyone with features like facial recognition, live captioning and more.
With these improvements in technology customers expect personalized services, but at the same time they are skeptical about the safety of the data that they are providing the companies. Salesforce in their 2nd edition of the State of the Connected Customer, talked about the importance of trust when it comes to handling a customer’s data, but do also state that “79% of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for contextualized interactions in which they’re immediately known and understood.”
This signifies the need for transparency and understanding how this data is actually used to enhance customer services. Use of big data and AI are now becoming the fasting emerging trends to deliver personalized customer services and enriching customer service.
Intelligent Voice Assistants
Voice assistants can be grouped under AI but because of their widespread application they need a special mention. Devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home, and built-in personal software like Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, countless options can be connected to tools within the workplace to make the environment accessible.
Voice assistants assimilate voice response that simulates conversations and integrate it with various applications and platforms to create an interactive virtual identity. Add this with software and it allows everything from making calls, to scheduling appointments, to turning on or adjusting electric devices and much more.
Portability and seamless integration
Only the availability of devices to help the disabled is not enough if they cannot use it in public places. We’re fast approaching a time when the integration of technology built seamlessly into our lives is more possible than ever before. Assistive technology has come a far way from using a single massive device for one function to devices like tecla-e that can be used to perform almost all daily activities. Since tecla-e gives people with upper-body mobility impairments the ability to fully access smart devices, users can send and receive emails and text messages, browse the web, watch videos, launch and use apps, read books, change the TV channel or turn the heat up, make (or hang up) phone calls at any time. That’s a lot of things you can do with just one device.
In a recent event esteemed Harvard Professor Leigh Hochberg spoke on the research for BrainGate – a small array of micro-electrodes as small as the nail on your little finger,that is implanted into the brain to pick up neural signals and translates thought into signals to control robotic arms or communication devices. Even though initial versions had wires attached to the head, the later models are wireless and this technology will allow someone with disability to live independently.
Keeping up with the technology
This is the most opportune time for development of assistive technology devices as more and more companies are interested in investing and cost of development is low. This rising interest will help develop low tech assistive technology making it accessible to more number of people.
Technology is developing at a very fast pace and families with disabled members are spending a lot of time and money on neuropsychological and educational evaluations and very little recommendation for assistive technology. But everyone with a disability needs a chance to avail a technology that can not only help but will also make them productive, successful, independent and happy.
Availability of assistive technology devices which, when seamlessly integrated can finally help make an inclusive world.
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