Assistive technology is making the world increasingly more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired…so why isn’t hiring catching up?
Assistive technology is the more mainstream phrase but I’ll also touch on enabling technology. The prompt for this post was a recent article posted by Accenture. The article includes a powerful video, which provides a cogent overview of Drishti. Borrowing directly from the Accenture article:
Accenture (NYSE: ACN) has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI)–powered solution to help the visually impaired improve the way they experience the world around them and enhance their productivity in the workplace. The solution, called Drishti, was developed as part of Accenture’s focus on Tech4Good, which aims to apply technology to improve the way the world lives and works by solving complex social challenges.
Assistive technology such as Drishti (which means “vision” in Sanskrit) provides someone who is blind with unprecedented access to their environment. Drishti has the potential to level the playing field for people who are blind. To date, assistive technology has done little to change the unemployment rate for people who are blind. That statistic continues to hover near 70%. As technology becomes ever more powerful, one can only hope that the unemployment rate eventually plummets. Although it’s a number of years old, here’s a great commentary by Gary Stein in the HuffPost.
Assistive versus enabling technology?
I also mentioned enabling versus assistive technology. What’s the difference? The short answer is there’s no difference but the longer answer is quite different. Before I explain the difference, please note that word choice brings out a lot of passion. Unfortunately, that passion isn’t always aligned. I will still boldy state my opinion. Assistive is technically accurate but suggests a person who requires assistance. Enabling is also technically correct and is viewed as more empowering (i.e. you have been enabled).
The bottom line: It is less about the choice of words and more about recognizing the person who is blind is a person first and they happen to be blind.
The last thing I want to mention is that I am getting closer to linking this site to another site with which I am involved. ThirdEye Glass was created by some very smart students at UPenn. As they focus on their studies, they asked if I would want to take over leadership of the product. Some work remains to fully stabilize the technology. It is my hope to drive that process forward with an open source approach. It is my fondest hope that the outcome will be assistive technology that also leads to more employment of people who are blind. If you know someone with the right tech skills and a passion for assistive technology, I would welcome an introduction.