Innovation and digital Accessibility
Accessibility experts are always thinking about how to make the inaccessible accessible. But it also works the other way around, ideas from accessibility can help persons who do not have a disability but still face similar problems.
The everywhere interpreter
A few years ago, the social enterprise VerbaVoice launched a service that enables a speech or sign language interpreter to be included in a conversation via the Internet. It is difficult for the deaf to find a sign language interpreter, there are also travel costs and much more, which is hardly affordable. The hard of hearing can only have difficulties in certain communication situations where a speech-to-text interpreter can help them.
Tourists and refugees can face very similar problems. Finding an interpreter in an exotic language is difficult. But even if you speak the language of the host country, you are sometimes overwhelmed. It would help if you could simply switch on a Dolmi via your smartphone when needed. The nice thing about the VerbaVoice system is that it doesn't matter where the customer or the dolmi is, the main thing is that both have a camera, microphone and internet.
A language for almost everyone
Augumented Communication is a methodology to enable persons to communicate who for some reason cannot express themselves verbally or intelligibly: aphasia, mental retardation, disorders of the vocal tract and so on. A basic method is the use of pictograms, which are used individually or in combination to express oneself. There is a pictogram for "I'm hungry" and another for what I want to eat. Or I'm ill and can use a pictogram to convey where and how I don't feel well.
Such pictograms could be used relatively easily to build a kind of universal language based on pictograms. I leave out the aspect that blind persons cannot participate. What we need for this is a universal set of pictograms, ideally under a Creative Commons license.
Most universal languages fail because, like verbal language, they want to cover everything. The language I have in mind, on the other hand, would only have to cover very specific cases. 90 percent of all communication with service personnel can be covered with a few standard formulas. I certainly won't ask the gentleman at Burger King what time it is or how his children are doing, the lady at the flight counter certainly doesn't want to ask my shoe size.
The UK can serve as a basis insofar as it relies on easily recognizable, intuitively understandable or easy-to-learn symbols. It's amazing how much can be expressed in a few pictos. Of course, they should also be understandable internationally.
Be my ears
The “Be my Eyes” app has just spooked the newspaper landscape. The point is that blind persons can use their smartphones to contact sighted persons in order to solve smaller visual tasks for them. For example deciphering an inscription on a can.
I had the idea of a switchable service a long time ago. It is relatively easy for blind persons to get from point A to point B by bus and train. The “last mile” is always difficult, that is, the route from the bus stop to the final destination. In addition, there are always difficult or even dangerous situations, for example the Bonn bus station, which was probably designed by a blind hater to finally solve the blind problem. It would be helpful for blind persons if they could turn on an assistant to show them the way on this “last mile”. Of course, this service would be chargeable, but the blind person would save the cost of a taxi, for example.
Of course, the service could be extended to other groups. Having trouble assembling your Ikea knick-knacks? Don't know how to set up your smartphone? And how the hell do you separate the yolks and whites? Ask the expert via internet.
The idea isn't entirely new either, there are some platforms like Amazon's "Mechanical Turk" that rely on taking on smaller tasks such as cropping image objects. A large part of the tasks of a workplace assistant for blind persons could be covered with such services.
Can you make money with it?
I hope it's clear that there are many treasures to be found in accessibility. The usual question, especially from disabled persons, is whether you can earn money with such services. I answer that it can also be an advantage for us if someone earns money with it.
The expansion of such universal services also has several advantages for disabled persons:
The technology is getting better. For example, it is easier to film an environment with smart glasses than with a smartphone
A paid service is more concerned with constantly improving its services and maintaining quality
A service with a functioning business model will probably not stop working overnight. With "Be my Eyes" there are costs that will increase over time, at the same time, as far as I know, they have no sources of income. They work with donations.
The disabled person becomes the employer instead of the client. Many of the large service providers are paid directly by the payer and the disabled person is not taken seriously.