Assistive technology innovations benefit hundreds of millions of people globally, allowing them to navigate in a world that is often not made with them or their needs in mind. Assistive technologies range from wheelchairs, artificial limbs, and canes to screen readers, apps, adaptive controllers, and much more. Anything that can maintain or improve functional capacities of people with disabilities can be considered assistive technology.
Many individuals and companies are working to create new gadgets and reinvent existing technology, but sometimes the most useful and game-changing assistive technology innovations are much more basic. Many people with disabilities aren’t interested in having devices such as canes and prosthetics completely reinvented – they want to be able to use everyday technology such as phones, computers, and vehicles.
Reaching a wider audience
There are many examples of new technology and ongoing research that aim to increase accessibility. For example, Google recently launched a visual accessibility feature that uses machine learning to better recognize and describe unlabeled images, making them more usable to visually impaired users. The company is also working to improve voice recognition for people with speech impediments (Project Euphonia), and to make voice calls accessible to deaf and hard of hearing individuals through speech recognition and text-to-speech technology (Live Relay). With Project Diva, Google is developing solutions and devices to allow users to interact with Google Assistant non-verbally. All of these things – interpreting images, making phone calls, and using digital assistants – are things that abled people typically view as mundane and simple, but can significantly improve quality of life for people with disabilities.
Google isn’t the only tech giant working on assistive technology innovations. Amazon recently announced a new feature for the Echo Show: Show and Tell. This feature allows users to hold items up to the Echo Show camera and ask it to identify them, helping blind and low-vision individuals recognize objects around their home. Microsoft has also developed the Xbox Adaptive Controller, with customizability that allows users to enjoy video games that otherwise would be unplayable for them.
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Another project to make everyday technology more accessible comes from Sesame Enable, and aims to provide a solution for people who can’t use touch interfaces. Sesame Enable has developed an app that uses a device’s camera to track the user’s face, allowing them to control the device using head movements. With objects such as mobile phones becoming such a pervasive and essential part of daily life, this app can be transformative for many people.
For visually impaired users, another assistive technology innovation is the Dot, a motorized braille smartwatch. The watch connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth to receive notifications, texts, and more, which it can display in braille four characters at a time. The device uses motorized modules that can raise and lower individual dots in order to form these characters, providing an alternative to voice notifications.
Innovations that benefit everyone
Other technologies can improve the day-to-day lives of people with disabilities with little or no modifications. Voice assistants and smart homes can help people with visual or physical impairments, while technology such as the cloud and video conferencing allow people to work without leaving home, which can be challenging or dangerous. Technologies that provide convenience to some can be much more important to others.
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Making accessibility products accessible
However, there are still downsides to these high-tech devices and applications. Assistive technology innovations can come with high barriers to entry – not everyone can afford a smartphone, for example, or related phone and smart home accessories. People with low incomes or limited familiarity with technology are often locked out of these solutions. Those who live in rural areas or other places where a good internet connection is hard to come by also face challenges accessing and using high-tech accessibility options.
Likewise, cutting-edge prosthetics, wheelchairs, and other mobility devices are of no help to users who cannot afford them. Developers and organizations need to keep in mind not only the affordability of the item itself, but how challenging or costly it can be to be fitted for it, fix it, maintain it, or replace it. Many new devices being developed offer exciting and unprecedented features, but are inaccessible to many of the people who would benefit from them. Anyone creating or distributing assistive devices needs to account for differences not only in ability but in income and location as well. Devices and technology that have fewer features can sometimes be much more valuable to users if that means they’re more affordable and easier to use and maintain. And a cheaper item that’s easier to sell can end up bringing in more revenue in the long run than a high-end, expensive one.
All of this isn’t to say that companies should stick to cheaper, simpler offerings when it comes to assistive technology innovations. But it’s important to keep in mind the diversity of the market, both in terms of needs and means. Additionally, companies that aren’t specifically targeting the disabled community can still benefit from considering their needs during the development process. An estimated 20% of the global population has some form of disability. By taking that section of the population into consideration, the market for a given product or service can broaden substantially, bringing more opportunities for sales and revenues while serving a group of people whose needs are often ignored.
A market full of potential
The global assistive technology market is a valuable one, with an expected growth of over $8 billion between 2020 and 2024. Growth will accelerate during this period at a rate of nearly 8%, with over a third of that growth coming from North America. This fragmented, fast-growing market offers many opportunities for companies looking to enter the market or expand.
For more about how to navigate the assistive technology market and what to expect from it, check out Technavio’s industry research. Our report includes insights such as:
- CAGR of the market during the forecast period 2020-2024
- Detailed information on factors that will accelerate assistive technology market growth during the next five years
- Precise estimation of the global assistive technology market size and its contribution to the parent market
- In-depth predictions on upcoming trends and changes in consumer behavior
- The growth of the assistive technology industry across APAC, Europe, MEA, North America, and South America
- A thorough analysis of the market’s competitive landscape and detailed information on vendors
- Comprehensive details of factors that will challenge the growth of assistive technology vendors
Learn more about assistive technology innovations with Technavio’s market research report. Try a free sample today!