Chairman Genachowski launched the Accessibility and Innovation (A&I) Initiative in July 2010, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Risks of Emerging Technology
As we all know, technology is evolving at an amazing pace, changing what we do, and how we do it, in almost every sphere of life. Mostly, this means exciting progress, since new tasks can be done that were not possible before, or traditional tasks can be done with less time and cost.
Unfortunately, however, history has shown that access to new technology often lags behind for people with disabilities. Those of us with a disability are not deliberately excluded from the benefits of new technology. Rather, accessibility is generally not on the radar screen when inventors are racing to create new products ahead of their competitors.
An ironic result of this dynamic is that people with disabilities can be more isolated from their peers if technological advancements do not consider their needs. For example, I personally experienced an inadvertent, major setback from technological change in the 1990s when office computers quickly switched from the text-based interface of DOS to the graphical user interface of Windows, for which there were no viable screen readers at the time.
Potential for Equalizing Opportunities
A different result is possible because most contemporary technologies have software at their core. Software is not fixed and inflexible, but malleable and adaptable. It can be made to do almost anything that the human mind can conceive. That includes being responsive to particular needs and abilities, supporting alternative means of input or output, thereby increasing their usability for everyone.
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