Assistive Technology…What’s Next?
Monday, April 14, 2014
By Mark Flores
You know, from my perspective it’s extremely interesting to witness the evolution of Assistive Technology. In the early 2000’s when I was first introduced to it, not only did it seem like something only rich people could afford but honestly it didn’t work that well either. I remember getting my hands on version 6 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking because my college accessibility advisor thought that I could be more productive with it. Yes it allowed me to be able to go hands-free, but not as free as you might think. Back then you basically had to be in an ultra-quiet room dictating word by word in order for Dragon to work. Trust me when I say that it really wasn’t very productive. Nowadays you can dictate reams of text to Dragon with some noise on in the background, just like I’m doing right now, and it will work amazingly well. 10 years ago you almost needed to take out a 2nd mortgage on your house just to afford a screen reader; today you can get a decent one for free!
With the introduction of tablets, smartphones and thinner, lighter laptops it really has become a mobile world. More and more people are taking full advantage of cutting the cords and no longer being tied to their desks. It’s no wonder that people with disabilities are looking to take advantage of the same opportunities. Even 5 years ago there wasn’t anybody thinking about how to offer access to mobile devices to people with disabilities; and now we carry 3 devices that do just that.
I believe that digital marketplaces like the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store have revolutionized the assistive technology industry. The next time you’re on your phone or your tablet do a search for assistive technology in your App Store of choice and I bet you that you will find hundreds if not thousands of apps that are specifically designed to assist people with disabilities do things like to know what bills we have in our wallets, take dictation or even something as big as communicating altogether. The various app stores have done remarkable things in the world of assistive technology. In some cases you’re no longer forced to carry around big bulky devices; in others, assistive technology manufacturers are now having to look at how much they charge us for their products. Especially since, as I mentioned before there are many serviceable low or no cost alternatives out there.
People often ask me what is next in the world of assistive technology. My answer is wearable’s. In the near future we are going to start to see assistive technology that fits in the palm of your hand and can control many devices. With the ever-increasing, ever shrinking power of computers I really think that the possibilities for what we will see assistive technology be able to do are endless. Don’t be surprised if one day you see people with disabilities able to accomplish complex everyday tasks with just a simple thought.
When I talk to myself, which surprisingly happens very often. I ask myself why do I love the world of assistive technology? The answer is because it’s always changing, always getting better and always giving people like me bigger opportunities that we never had.
Hopeful for the future,
Mark Flores, President & CEO of Handi Enterprises Inc.
Statement of independence:
Handi Enterprises Inc. is an assistive technology reseller. At no time do we ever take money or other incentive of any kind to review or promote a manufacturers product. As such you can expect the most honest product reviews in the assistive technology world.