We resort to technological assistance for handicaps on a daily basis without even realizing it. Inventions such as the remote control, vocalisation in subway trains, or the sound signal at pedestrian crossings are just some examples from a long list.
It is therefore clear that the development of technologies related to disability accessibility is closely linked to the needs of all users, whether they have a disability or not.
Technological advances, levers of accessibility for the disabled
Accessibility of new technologies for disability in this digital age is a valuable technical aid. But what is accessible accessibility?
In short, this concept is essential that the digital ecosystem (internet, applications, tools and terminals) is accessible and usable by all, in this case the disabled – people with a physical or mental disability.
To be honest, every user must be able to perceive, understand, navigate and interact easily. The goal is to change everyone at the same pace, without anyone being sidelined. That is to say that new technologies in the service of disability overcome the difficulties of people with physical or mental disabilities.
From this perspective, assistive technology for disability must address a real challenge, to overcome the obstacles faced by people with disabilities. This is how they will enjoy the same privileges, whether in a personal or professional setting.
Who is concerned with digital accessibility?
People particularly concerned with digital accessibility can be classified into several categories. Remember that one in ten people have a disability and one in five thinks they are limited in their activities.
Disabilities can be physical and sensory (motor, auditory, visual), mental (intellectual, cognitive psychic) or both (polyhandicaps).
Visual impairment can be moderate or severe, such as color blindness, blindness or retinopathy. Today, blind people can access content on the web through screen readers associated with a braille display and speech synthesis technology.
Disability innovations such as screen magnifiers or plug-in software are designed for visually impaired people with the possibility of enlarging texts or changing their colors.
The motor handicap is quite broad as a term, but we will focus especially, rightly, on the inability of individuals to use the mouse or keyboard. In fact, people with reduced mobility experience difficulties in understanding, controlling movements, sequencing sequential movements or combinations of keys.
Solutions such as specific keyboards and the “focus” (small box indicating an action possible via links or buttons) facilitate navigation.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing have trouble with soundinformation, sound files (podcast) and video. They sometimes feel speech and reading difficulties.
Mental or cognitive impairment
Users with a mental or cognitive disorder suffer from problems of thinking, memory and perception. This is why it is important to adapt or even simplify the consultation and web browsing. Moreover, the WCAG 2.1 update of the rules of digital accessibility advocates for all goes the application of new criteria related to cognitive impairment.
Older people (at moin s 60) are also affected by accessibility problems to technological innovations. Note that seniors accounted for 18.8% of the population in France (figures published by INSEE in early 2016). And, according to the current trend, the deal is not ready to change until 2035.
Older people, who are more vulnerable, can therefore face the same accessibility constraints mentioned due to motor impairment, the reduction of certain abilities (vision, concentration, hearing) and, moreover, difficulties in mastering or learning the use of new technologies ; 3 reasons that justify accessibility to the disabled.
An official W3C standard
“One web everywhere and for everyone” ! It speaks volumes about what the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) , a standards body, requires web platform designers. The concept of “web for all” means access to all regardless of their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, location, physical or mental abilities.
The issue of citizenship is obviously not left out. The digital tool is part of the everyday life of everyone, in professional and private life. In other words, it has become a means of integration and autonomy in all spheres of society. Hence the importance of putting technology at the service of the disabled.
Based on the above, the call is made to designers and engineers of software, operating systems, applications and devices! Indeed, disability standards take into account the construction of web platforms and accessible electronic documents while respecting graphic, functional and ergonomic quality.
For this, we recommend a standardized format from the beginning of the design such as the examples that we will discover.
Some examples of innovations
With the advent of voice technology, the giants of the web (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) are taking full advantage of artificial intelligence, specifically deep learning.
Powered by a network of artificial neurons, this branch of machine learning allows GAFAM (Google et al.) To develop smart wizards like Google Now, Alexa, Siri, Cortana to understand the voice of users and effectively respond to their needs. queries.
According to the above, it can be seen that voice assistants can make life easier for people with disabilities in many situations. In practice, they allow to associate a series of actions simply with the voice without need to move or manipulate the device.
Just say “Ok Google …”, for example, to open shutters or turn on lights. And by 2020, at least 30 voice assistants and connected objects per household (2 billion in total) are expected according to a study by the German GFK institute.
In addition, some tools such as the voice transcriber greatly help people with motor disabilities. Thanks to a high-performance voice transcription, the user having difficulty using the keyboard and / or the mouse can dictate and format text.
But what primarily contributes to a means of accessibility for the disabled extends well beyond this “exclusive” use. Today, purchases can be made through voice and solutions for customer relationship management come to mind. In addition, the migration to voice SEO is much talked about at a time when 20% of requests on Google come from the voice search.
In other words, the expectations are high and it will be necessary to bet strongly to satisfy the greatest number. All things considered, the AI, through voice recognition, provides an adequate response to user requests while providing better interaction.
With voice synthesis, you can now give voice to your websites, digital documents or mobile applications. In concrete terms, your textual content is transformed into words that are more real than life to promote accessibility.
Phonetic transcription brings together a set of fields of application, notably the vocalization of computer screens (screen reader) or web vocalization tools such as Readspeaker.
In the second example, your online content is instantly converted into voice synthesis giving access to seniors, blind, visually impaired and those with reading difficulties. Ultimately, speech synthesis technology meets the standards of accessibility defined by the World Wide Web (WCAG).
New technologies have enabled the integration of automatic captions to help people with hearing or visual impairments. Two concrete examples: PowerPoint and Skype that will soon offer automatic subtitles in real time. Thus, the firm of Bill Gates put strong by providing a solution capable of offering a written transcription (in real time) of the words of the interlocutors.
Haptic technologies are a major asset in the accessibility of people with disabilities, including the visually impaired and the blind.
The touch screen is designed to feel light vibrations when the user puts his finger on it. The goal is to give the sensation of pressing a physical button to live a better experience.
In sum, it promotes not only the action, but also the perception which perfectly meets the W3C criteria. That’s why digital giants like Fujitsu and Apple have been quick to launch their products to offer full accessibility to the disabled.
Robotics is a major technological asset to ensure the accessibility of people with reduced mobility, particularly stricken by paralysis. The invention of exoskeletons or outer skeletons allows paralyzed persons (lower limbs) to resume an active life.
Le Genie x3
This motorized prosthetic device, originally intended for the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, helps to restore mobility to people who have lost the use of the leg.
Another example of paired walking is the Rewalk, a device that allows people to cover their legs and thighs. In addition to facilitating walking, the exoskeleton brings many benefits both physically and psychologically.
Motion recognition technology
Motion recognition technology extends the list of assistive technology devices. On this point, the innovations developed focus on video games, including consoles such as Wii and Kinect. The concept – it’s a good idea to call it back – relies on an interface control without the use of controllers or peripherals; everything is played with the body.
What is interesting with the Wii is that it allows accessibility for different forms of disabilities. Thanks in particular to game consoles with trays like the Wii Balance Board. In addition to being a re-education tool – to promote joint mobility and balance, among others – “Wii Therapy” is an excellent cognitive approach.
But motion recognition technology goes even further in its scope. Leap Motion has developed a smoother and more organic handshake than ever before by boosting the AR / VR (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality) experience to an unparalleled level.
Always in the virtual world , Google and Microsoft have both, in a way, their contribution to solving the problems of accessibility in virtual reality. The Mountain View firm has created a prototype audio-spatial navigation system for virtual reality.
Microsoft, meanwhile, offers accessibility in VR with “Canetroller”, a gem making virtual reality accessible to the visually impaired through the haptic and auditory simulation of a cane.
How to increase digital accessibility?
The first reflex is to take note from the outset of the concept of universal design: to intuitively combine disability and technology! That is, creating devices, products and services that are accessible without the need for adaptation. These devices will of course bring together all the technical, ergonomic and editorial aspects of the tool.
It is a question of concretely making every effort to allow real technological advances for the handicap, whether on a website, an electronic documentation, terminals or even applications.