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Technology: the social engine for people with disabilities

Technology: the social engine for people with disabilities

Jesse Jackson, a civil rights activist, already said “inclusion is the key to growth”. Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and, this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) wanted to emphasize the following motto: “A day for all”. Reminding us that disability is part of the human condition and that almost all of us, at some point in life, will experience temporary or permanent disability.

In this way, we all have a great job of inclusion ahead of us, but, above all, the big companies are the «key to promote concrete measures that guarantee diversity»has explained José María Álvarez Pallete, CEO of Telefónica, on several occasions.

Thus, with the aim of promoting equal conditions and inclusion, the Movistar+ 5S Service arises where we can find movie or fiction titles adapted for people with disabilities. From subtitles for people with hearing problems, audio descriptions and sign language in Spanish. Also, the Movistar+ application is accessible to people with visual disabilities, through Talkback on Android and VoiceOver for iOS, being able to navigate through the application with the help of an audio guide.

In parallel, Movistar has also wanted to add another great advance for inclusive technology: they incorporate sign language into the company’s telephone service. All thanks to the collaboration of the CNSE Foundation, which makes it possible to have a video interpreter in the company’s procedures.

Advances in inclusive technology for people with disabilities

According to the WHO, more than 1 billion people, about 15% of the world’s populationhave some kind of disability. This figure is expected to increase over time, due to the aging of society and non communicable diseases.

For many years, people with disabilities and their families have had to fight day and night for achieve greater daily independence, always within the conditions of each individual. For example, turning on the washing machine or taking the subway are daily actions that for some people with disabilities pose a constant challenge.

Around this scene the work of technology acquires a greater prominence. The use of digital devices in our lives that make our day to day easier, however, the use of these resources represents a greater advance for people with disabilities.

ICTs as a tool for inclusion

In the case of visually impaired people, for a long time have been excluded when carrying out activities like reading newspapers or crossing traffic lights. Thus, the arrival of various technological advances have guaranteed that these people can carry out daily tasks with greater independence.

For example, finding your way around the street through a browser accessible on your mobile, knowing at which train or bus stop you have to get off, shopping and even visiting a museum is possible, thanks to an application developed by the ONCE Foundation .

In the case ofpeople with hearing disabilities, the Spanish project Showleap arises, which translates sign language into voice. How does it work? The signing individual uses a bracelets that recognize the movement of your hands and fingersconverting them into audio and written language on a screen.

While for people with intellectual disabilities, technology is positioned as a means that enables the performance of tasks and enhances their abilities. For example, they allow cognitive development, semantic memory, comprehension, attention to improve, and they strengthen vision and hearing. Here, the development of NeuronUP plays an important role, a cognitive stimulation tool with rehabilitation exercises for people with ADHD, brain damage, multiple sclerosis, etc.

The importance of a more informed society

As we can see, there is great progress in the development of inclusive technology to help people with disabilities on a daily basis. The fact that a hearing impaired person can communicate with a person who lacks knowledge of sign language represents very important progress.

However, there is still a lot of work aheadas there are still various disadvantages within society that need to be addressed.

It is important to mention that inclusive technology is key to improving the quality of life of these people, but it is also information and knowledge about these disabilities is essential by the population with the aim of promoting, thus, the inclusion of all these people.

Future challenges of inclusive technology

In this way, one of the current challenges is accessibility, that is to say, we find ourselves in a society that is immersed in continuous changes and advances, giving rise to constantly updated websites. However, in the same way that these websites evolve, accessibility to the content itself must advance, since, in general, they go their separate ways, when they should go hand in hand.

In this line, according to a study carried out by Adecco Foundation and Keysight Technologies in 2020Technology and disability, 42% of the people surveyed declare that they think Complex use of technology and that, therefore, they find different barriers in their use. While 32% respond that there are accessibility problems.

For this reason, taking into account that technology has not yet managed to integrate the people with disabilities under equal conditionsTelefónica shows its commitment to accessibility by signing the Principles to promote the digital inclusion of people with disabilities promoted by the GSMA, with the aim of putting an end to the digital divide.

In this way, people with disabilities day by day they work to improve themselves and to show society that it is possible. Therefore, citizenship must be a support for the growth, both personal and professional, of these people and not an impediment.

Header image: Harry Cunningham.