Technological advancements led by the internet in the last few decades have made our lives increasingly connected and convenient. For people with disabilities, some of these innovations have been particularly useful. They have broken down barriers and have made it possible for people with disabilities to access a wide range of services and benefits they could not access before.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one such technological breakthrough that has the potential to make lives more accessible than ever before for people with disabilities.
How IoT can break accessibility barriers for people with disabilities
Wearable IoT devices can make it easier for people with disabilities to communicate with others, improve their mobility, and help them overcome accessibility-related obstacles they commonly face at home, school, work, and other places.
Data shows that the pandemic significantly accelerated the growth of IoT devices (exceptionally internet-connected medical devices). IoT devices are projected to number 41 billion worldwide by 2027 if we don't bankrupt ourselves first - just saying.
Below is a list of innovative IoT devices that can improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
The Ring Doorbell has a feature wherein you can receive notifications on your smartphone whenever you have a visitor. It can be beneficial for people with hearing disabilities. The doorbell also allows you to communicate with your visitors using your phone. It can be helpful for people with impaired vision.
Lechal Smart Insoles
Lechal's smart insoles, specifically designed for individuals with visual impairments, are now available for purchase. These innovative insoles connect with a GPS navigation app and guide through vibratory feedback. They can be easily fitted into any type of shoe and are intended for daily use.
Peloton Screen Reader
Peloton’s stationary bikes have a built-in TalkBack screen reader tool, which allows visually challenged people to interact with the touchscreen and make the most of their workouts. Peloton has also added captions and subtitles to its on-demand classes to make them more accessible for people with hearing impairments.
Mira Smart Backpack
Georgia’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence has developed an artificial intelligence-powered backpack called Mira for people with visual impairments. The bag has a built-in spatial AI camera and Intel’s Movidius vision processing unit and can communicate with you through Bluetooth-connected earphones.
It can alert you about street signs, curbs, staircases, and crosswalks, making it easier to navigate independently. It can also alert you about obstacles like moving objects in the vicinity, elevation changes in the walking surface, overhanging tree limbs, and more.
Microsoft Seeing AI App
Seeing AI is an app designed by Microsoft for people with visual impairments. The app can describe people and objects, making it easier for people with visual impairments to learn about their immediate surroundings and interact with others. The app can estimate a person’s age, gender, and emotional state. It can read out text messages, printed documents, and handwritten text. It can also locate and scan barcodes to describe products.
Bosch Smart Washing Machines and Dryers
Bosch’s Home Connect washing machines and dryers provide wash cycle updates to your smartphone or through a digital assistant like Alexa. This feature can be helpful for people with mobility issues and people who use a wheelchair, as it eliminates the need to check on laundry unnecessarily.
Neosensory Vibrating Wristwatches
Neosensory’s Sound Awareness wristwatch is for people with hearing impairments. The watch can identify and alert you about a wide range of sounds – from someone calling your name to cars honking, the sound of smoke alarms, sirens, water running, doorbells, dogs barking, babies crying, and many more.
Smart Home Hub
A smart home hub is a centralized controlling device that allows you to operate and control the lights, temperature, locks, security cameras, and more. It can automate many processes and make it easier for people with visual impairments and mobility issues to have more control over their devices. Many leading tech giants, including Amazon and Apple, offer smart home hubs that allow you to connect and control your smart home devices easily.
Accessibility should be integral to IoT device development
IoT devices can help people with disabilities overcome daily obstacles and make life easier for them. It should be noted that IoT is still a work in progress and will continue to evolve according to users' needs – including the disabled community. By including people with disabilities in the designing and testing processes of IoT devices, businesses can make sure their devices are accessible and meet the needs of those who need these devices the most.