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17 May 2019 by Adam Greenwood

Inclusion Through Technology

Inclusion Through Technology

“What’s the point of using voice to switch on a light? Why not just use a light switch?”

There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK* and not all of them are able to use a light switch.

Technology should be used for inclusion not segregation and voice tech is one of the leading lights in this field. People that have physical disabilities can use smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home to control lights, heaters, TVs, beds, doors and more.

The big tech companies have supplied the platforms and it is often smaller companies or even individuals that enable their use to improve the daily lives of people with physical disabilities.

A great example of this is The Muscular Dystrophy Association who worked with Robbie and his mum to completely voice enable Robbie’s bedroom using Google Assistant. Robbie has Muscular Dystrophy and is severely limited in his physical abilities. By using his voice he is able to control every aspect of his bedroom, including his bed - which he used to have to rely on his mother to operate.

For people that are unable to speak, Abhishek Singh has developed an Alexa sign language translator, using computer vision and AI to translate sign language into a voice which can be understood by the assistant.

Microsoft recently launched the adaptive controller to enable people with limited mobility to play Xbox – the launch advert ran during the Super Bowl 2019 and has been watched over 30M times on YouTube.

Voice assistants can also help people with mental disabilities such as Alzheimer’s. Carers can sometimes feel overwhelmed by having to answer the same questions over and over again but Google assistant doesn’t mind being repeatedly asked what day it is.

Why do we need to be more focused on inclusion?

In 2019, inclusion and empathy are of the utmost importance. Whether you are a global tech giant, a brand or a hobbyist, we all have the power to improve the lives of people with disabilities. It is thought that the collective spending power of disabled people, known as the ‘Purple Pound’ is worth £249bn to the UK economy. Yet many brands still aren’t accommodating the needs of consumers with disabilities or impairments.

How do I go about it?

For any project, a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds should be engaged from the very beginning and all the way through to delivery and marketing.

Talk about what you’re doing, take people on your journey with you. Do your research, scrutinise your offering as a brand and find the gaps. Is your website accessible for someone who is blind? Does your product cater for someone who uses a wheelchair? How about someone with Dyslexia or in countries where literacy is of a lower than average standard?

Everyone has cognitive biases based on their own experiences, so create diversity in your teams for a wider perspective.

Be inclusion advocates - share the genuine benefits your brand has given and received by having a focus on inclusion to inspire others.