For many people technology is simply a convenience. But, for people living with disabilities, technology can mean the difference between dependability and independence. Whether this is smart home technology that helps wheelchair users get around the house to complete everyday tasks or a change in transportation technology, brand new technology is a game changer for wheelchair users. With technology changing every day, especially technology that is meant for accessibility, we thought we would share a few inclusive technology trends that are increasing independence for wheelchair users.
Accessible Computer Devices
Inclusive Technology, one of the leading creators of adaptive technology, recently released an adapter that allows users to use a mouse with a tablet or a cell phone. This allows people with limited hand or arm movement to be able to control their device independently with an accessible mouse (usually one large scroll ball and two large buttons for the right and left click). Currently available for iOS devices, this technology can be paired with Apple’s AssistiveTouch menu that will allow users to use the mouse for features such as volume control and even the home button.
There’s an App for That
With more than 2.1 million apps available in the app store, it can be difficult to navigate which apps are the best ones to download onto your devices. For wheelchair users looking to get around to doctor appointments or to find out if they qualify for Medicaid, wheelchair van driving and getting around once they reach their destination is essential. For accessible transportation, there are two apps to take note of: AccessMap and Wheelmap.
AccessMap, created during a University of Washington project and only currently available in Seattle, is an app that is very similar to any standard street map app where users can get directions. But, what’s special about this app is that it allows wheelchair users to leave and receive feedback regarding the street sidewalks in terms of accessibility. Users can see their route and determine if any of the sidewalks will be too steep, if any of their path is closed for construction or if any of the curbs are lacking the sloped curb cut, to name just a few examples. This information will allow wheelchair users to pick the best accessible-friendly route on the sidewalks of Seattle to get from point A to point B.
Wheelmap takes street accessibility to the next level. This app is a free, global map for wheelchair accessibility. Using the map within the app, users can add accessible locations, upload photos and leave comments regarding the accessibility of a location. This can include anything from attractions or buildings to locations on the street. The app is open source, meaning anyone can add details to a location in the map at any time.
Smart Home Technology
This technology trend is literally taking homes into the future. Smart home technology includes everything from Smart Speakers, Smart Lights, Smart Plugs, Smart Doorbells and Smart Locks, to robotic vacuums, voice-controlled appliances and wifi controlled thermostats. While many of these devices were created for the general consumer and not necessarily with accessibility in mind, these types of smart home technology items allow wheelchair users to customize their homes to cater to their accessibility needs without needing any type of major renovations or a major budget commitment.
As a wheelchair van manufacturer and dealer, we know that transportation can be a huge barrier for wheelchair users and greatly affects their quality of life. For wheelchair users that are unable to take advantage of a caregiver’s assistance in driving their wheelchair vehicle or who are unable to drive on their own, self-driving vehicles will be an exciting possibility in the coming years. This technology will allow vehicles to accelerate, brake, turn and perform all functions of standard vehicles on the road without any direction from the vehicle’s driver. This opens up a world of possibilities for people who are unable to transport themselves due to their abilities.
And while self-driving vehicles may seem like they are a thing of the distant future, companies like Apple, Uber, Volvo and Waymo (a Google company), among many others are already working on self-driving vehicles. In fact, there is an unofficial worldwide race to see which company brings self-driving vehicles to market first. It’s possible there could be self-driving vehicles for sale as early as next year or the year after.
Technology for the Future
Last year, Microsoft introduced their AI for Accessibility program. The program aims to build accessible, inclusive products that assist people with disabilities with work, life and human connections. The program will fund AI developments through $25 million in grants over the five years following the program’s launch.
The first company to receive a grant was iTherapy, based out of California, that used the funding to add AI features to its communication skills app, InnerVoice. The AI chatbots and avatars the grant allowed them to add are helping communication learners to create connections between speech and language. While this app is targeted at people with learning delays, there is much more to come from the AI for Accessibility program in the coming years that could assist wheelchair users on a day-to-day basis.
At the Forefront of Technology
You’ve heard us say it before and we will probably say it again; technology is ever evolving and taking us further in the future. At Rollx Vans, our team is excited to be at the forefront of technology for the wheelchair van industry and also for the wheelchair van community as a whole. We show this to our customers every day with our commitment to our ISO 9001: 2015 Quality Management Certification and rigorous safety testing of our technology. We’re excited to see what new accessible technology will be created in the coming years that will help propel our company into the future and help our customers live more independent lives. Want to hear more about our exclusive wheelchair van technology? Contact our team today to learn more.