2 Disability and Technology
You might think of as it relates to an individual person and their specific impairments. However, the social model of disability helps us understand that the source of barriers for people with disabilities actually comes from society and the inaccessible environments it creates. The responsibility to remove barriers for people with disabilities is ours. Our goal is to proactively identify and remove or reduce barriers for people with disabilities.
Accessibility and technology
Something can be considered accessible when it provides equitable access to allow people with disabilities to complete tasks and make choices without judgment, while retaining their autonomy. Digital accessibility, sometimes referred to as (where “11” refers to the number of letters omitted), provides equitable access for people who may need Assistive Technology (AT) or personal to complete digital tasks. Accommodations may include modifications to the digital material, such as adjustable screen brightness or font size. ATs can include specialized hardware or software that can assist people with disabilities to perceive and interact with digital content. Examples of ATs are provided below.
Accessibility APIs and assistive technologies
Digital devices, including laptops, desktops, tablets, and other mobile devices, have a built-in Accessibility Application Program Interface ( ). APIs effectively serve as a translator or guide between different software . Software applications use the rules set out in the accessibility API to communicate to Assistive Technologies (ATs) and ensure that the ATs can interpret the information from the software so that it is understandable for the user.
The interaction can be broken down as follows:
- Browsers translate web-based applications to an accessibility tree, which speaks to the accessibility API.
- The assistive technology receives the data and translates it into an alternate user interface.
- The actions of the assistive technology user are translated back through the Accessibility API to complete desired tasks.
Examples of Accessibility Features and Technology
Screen Readers: Screen readers allow people who have difficulty seeing or reading to access information. The screen reader will identify text in a website, app, or document and read it out loud with an electronic voice to the user. Screen readers are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and so they do not intuitively understand what order text should be read in and rely on features like headers and other clues built into documents, websites, and applications for context.
Switches: A switch is a mechanical aid that allows a person with a physical disability to access the features of a keyboard or mouse in an alternative way. There are various types of switches, from tactile buttons, pedals, levers, or breath-activated tubes. perform a single action, like the click of a mouse. When a user has access to one switch, software cycles through options on a website, application or virtual keyboard and allows the user to activate the features they want.
Speech-to-Text Technology: technology allows users to bypass traditional typing on a keyboard by speaking. The computer or device recognizes what the user has said and translates the spoken words to commands or text (For example, if the user said: “double-click file name”). People with different types of disabilities, including physical disabilities, vision disabilities, or cognitive disabilities, may use speech-to-text applications. This technology is becoming popular with non-disabled people as well because it is a convenient feature that can save time. Many devices, computers, and applications come with built-in speech-to-text technology.
Any impairment, or difference in physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, or communication ability. Disabilities can be permanent, temporary, or episodic (meaning that the impact of the disability can change over time). There are different types of disabilities, including physical, vision-related, hearing-related, and cognitive disabilities. The specifics of a disability vary by person and a person can have more than one disability.
An abbreviation that refers to the eleven letters between the A and the Y in Accessibility. Usually refers to Digital Accessibility.
A change that is made so that a person with a disability is able to fully participate or access information.
Application Program Interface
An identifiable part of a larger program or construction.
Software that interacts with a digital device using one or more switches instead of the mouse-click or tap on a touchscreen.
Software that converts spoken words to electronic text or commands.