Ever since the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 became law on July 26 of that year, disabled people have been in a steady decline in services, support and protection. Oftentimes — the struggle is more rewarding than the win — and once the day is won, everyone relaxes, and forgets what the real meaning of the fight for rights was all about, and things begin to decay into apathy against an upward, failing, expectation.

Evidence of this lack of accessible ubiquity in our technological futures for the Disabled is the rise of the “Voice Only” command system, be it an Amazon Echo, the Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Xfinity Voice Remote, Apple TV voice command, Google Docs voice dictation, or even Apple’s Siri.

If you use Sign Language as your main form of communication because you are Deaf and do not use your voice — all these Voice Command systems are useless — because not only can you not bark a discernable command, you have no way to listening to the response!

As well, if you have a speech impediment, or a heavy accent — there’s no way to use these Voice Command products without some form of contextual intervention.

Will it one day be possible to non-vocal inquiries to your Voice Command system and get back a visual response?

When designers create something new for the future, is there an imperative, innate, moral responsibility to include everyone by default?

Or does one design technology with the foreknowledge — and purposeful mandate-of-design — that the exclusion of an entire culture of people is the price of forward?

Does it matter those now left-behind-by-design had previously not only relied upon, but come to joyfully expect, technology would ease the disabilities in their lives — not punish-them-by-exclusion because they are unable to remotely command a mechanism into operation?

The Deaf and the Other Disabled are quickly getting left behind the rest of us — not by their choice — but by the controlling sphere of technology to press onward at any moral cost into the next nothing that always becomes something elitist and scarce by necessity, for if everyone were included, and if everyone had a stake in its success in the marketplace of the human whole cloth — it would be righteously victorious and contemplative rather than the other of merely being popular and mistakable.

4 Comments

  1. Here is a device I found that “reads” sign language — this is the direction developers should go to helping the Deaf community —

    http://www.fastcoexist.com/3053285/this-gadget-reads-sign-language-and-then-translates-it-into-speech-to-give-the-deaf-a-voice/2

    On a recent flight I sat next to a man who only understood Gujarati. Without speaking to each other at all, we passed my phone back and forth using Google Translate and had a conversation. I am hopeful for the future of universal communication — voice or not!

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      1. Well it’s a bit like a ramp. It doesn’t solve the stairs problem but it provides a way to get that functionality – getting you where you need to go. Perhaps companies will allow the signing video readers to attach to the Echo for example as an input device. That would be quite smart business for all involved!

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        1. Access delayed is access denied! SMILE!

          Glide is popular in the Deaf community. There must be some sort of translative iteration a programmer could construct for seamless communication.

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