Explain It Like I'm Five: Accessible technology

Why is accessible technology important?

Seemingly simple design decisions don’t always fit with how disabled people live their lives. With how much technology is being integrated into everything, it can make even basic tasks needlessly difficult. Nearly 284,000 of Canadians with a disability say they don’t even use the internet for IT and accessibility reasons.

What are some ways tech can be inaccessible?

Replacing elevator buttons with a touch screen might not seem like a big deal, unless you’re someone who needs braille and can’t find your floor. For people who can’t move a mouse but can still hit keys on a keyboard, the layout of a website can create “keyboard traps” that leave users stuck in a section that can’t be navigated away from with the arrow or tab keys.

What are tech companies doing to make their devices more accessible?

Touch screens are also a problem for those with limited movement in their arms and hands. Apple addressed this by letting users control iPhones and iPads with their eyes, using the selfie camera to track eye movement. Google released a beta version of something similar that uses facial expressions like raising your eyebrows to complete different actions.

What about on the hardware front?

Video games are one area. Microsoft is working with hardware company ByoWave on a modular controller kit: Players can take apart and re-assemble each section of the controller into more than 100 different configurations to fit their comfort and range of motion. This kind of customizable approach could also be applied to other areas of life, like controlling smart home devices.