In 2015 North American travelers with disabilities spent $17.3 billion on travel, significantly more than $13.6 billion in 2002. At the same time, complaints about airlines made by passengers with disabilities have doubled to more than 30,000 per year. Amadeus, a travel industry technology company, released a report on barriers to accessibility across stages of the passenger journey that may hold some answers as to why.
In South Korea, consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung is looking at ways that technology, including artificial intelligence, can help people with disabilities. Samsung says its developers are “listening closely to the feedback of those with disabilities, and developing tests so they can directly experience the inconveniences themselves.” Samsung says it is developing a number of technologies with an eye to ensuring accessibility for anyone and everyone, that have the potential to dramatically help those with disabilities, the elderly, and many others.
The state government of Western Australia, like the Province of Ontario, is making a point of encouraging employers to hire people with disabilities. Its Count Me In strategy was launched in 2009, with an aim for “all people to live in welcoming communities that facilitate citizenship, friendship, mutual support and a fair go for everyone.”
In Owen Sound, Ontario, free portable ramps will soon make downtown shops more accessible for people using wheelchairs, wheeled walkers and pushing strollers. The first ramps were placed in front of two Owen Sound shops in the spring, for a ceremonial kick-off to promote use of the ramps downtown this summer. “It’s a no-brainer,” said one of the recent ramp recipients. “Why would I want to keep anyone from my store?”
Housing is an ongoing challenge for many people with disabilities, as the cost of housing keeps rising – exponentially in many communities. On her blog Free Wheelin, writer Karin Willison describes the “tiny house” on wheels as a solution that is affordable and can be easily worked into existing communities.
People with disabilities navigating the streets of Edmonton will soon have a new tool to try out. The “Click ’n’ Push” app will measure how much force a person in a wheelchair exerts while navigating the city, and then predict the degree of difficulty of a route, taking into account the user’s strength.
A Toronto builder has caught onto the idea of intentionally designing condos that are easily modified to accommodate people with disabilities. Most builders don't currently offer accessibility as a standard option, and adding such features or retrofitting an existing unit can run to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Skype has several improvements to its accessibility on the way, as part of Microsoft’s mission to “make technology more accessible and empower people to achieve more.” According to an article on Microsoft’s news site ON-MSFT, the Skype development team has been using user feedback and comments to address “accessibility issues.”
Video game developers are taking changes to accessibility rules into consideration. At the spring 2018 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, game developers from Owlchemy gave a presentation called “Accessibility in VR: How It Can Be Better.” The developers shared their own research on the subject gathered from a total of 82 virtual reality games. For each of those games, they attempted to play both sitting and standing, examined the availability of options and what they offered, gauged the reliance on audio, and recorded how much bending or reaching was required to play.
On The Chronicle of Higher Education, Assistant Director of Educational Technology at Yale University Michelle Morgan asks education professionals to consider the historical bias toward printed text, and to look for opportunities to consider alternative methods of delivering course materials. This will be of benefit not just for the students who need it, but all students, because in doing so professors and teachers can flesh out the learning experience.
The summer would not be complete without a trip to the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario to watch the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays are beginning the process to build a team to be a World Series contender in the years ahead. With the experience of veteran baseball players including Kevin Pillar and Justin Smoak combined with the emerging talents of the new recruits including Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte and Randal Grichuk suggests a promising future.