The internet revolution has been particularly transformative for people with disabilities, enabling remarkable innovation in accessibility technology. This includes innovations that empower independent living and improve the daily lives of people with disabilities. One area where the internet and broadband access have had a significant impact is in accessible travel.
Accessible Travel Innovations
The internet has enabled the development of various technologies that make travel more accessible for people with disabilities. For example, there are now canes integrated with sensors for functionalities such as fall detection, SOS voice calls, gait measuring, and other mobility tracking. There are also services that bring eyes to the visually impaired through instant wireless connections and artificial intelligence. And there are even connected prosthetic limbs that enable manufacturers to extend clinical expertise into patients’ daily lives through data collection and analysis of user behavior.
Technology, the Gig, and App Economy
Today, the use of technology and the gig economy across industries create new opportunities and barriers for the disability community. Advances in technology, web-based systems, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, 5G technology, and “smart” states and cities can provide for new ways of navigation, access to services, and employment. But development of these new tools often outpaces the development of accessibility standards, and disabled people are frequently excluded from enjoying the benefits of these tools.
The rise in the gig economy creates new flexible employment options for people with disabilities but also creates major questions and concerns regarding these issues including worker classification, civil rights and worker protections, portable benefits, informed choice of worker status and data collection. Research on these emerging technologies reveals algorithms, artificial intelligence, and other technologies can replicate and increase biases around gender, race, disability, and other identities.
The Importance of an Open Internet
The internet together with broadband access is continuing to improve our daily lives and empower independent living for people with disabilities. In 2020, broadband providers led all other industries by investing $66 billion to expand the availability of, and improve, high-speed broadband service – more than any other industry. Sustaining this investment is critical for the disability community as it ultimately leads to more ubiquitous access to innovations in every aspect of life; from simple hands-free automation of household tasks to remote delivery of complex healthcare services.
Internet users expect an open and innovative internet. That means no blocking websites, no censoring online content, and no throttling or unfair discrimination based on content. Period.
AT&T, in the US, has publicly committed to these principles for more than a decade and will continue abiding by them. Other broadband ISPs have made similar commitments. But it is not enough for only ISPs to make this promise. Internet users can only truly be protected when they know these same core principles apply across their entire internet experience and all companies on the internet are held to the same standard. This is especially critical for members of the disability community, who rely on a combination of broadband service, devices, and apps to deliver accessible experiences.
Faster network speeds, augmented reality, virtual reality, and other technologies will bring the world much closer to people with disabilities and change the delivery of healthcare in ways we have yet to even imagine. These technologies offer the prospect of a smarter, more mobile, and more inclusive vision of society for the lives of people with disabilities.
You can read the original article here.