From Zoom transcripts to smartphones that can audio-describe the world to a visually impaired person, these technological advancements can help close the disability inclusion gap.
For the 1.3 billion people across the world who live with some form of disability, remote working can be particularly tough. But technology is helping to overcome the barriers that risk excluding some people from the pandemic-era world of work.
Valuable 500 is encouraging the development of digital technologies to support people with disabilities working from home during the pandemic. Here are five innovations that are tackling the barriers they face.
This Microsoft artificial intelligence app for visually impaired people uses your smartphone’s camera to audio-describe the world around you. It is capable of recognizing people you know and can even describe their appearance, including how they are feeling.
It can read images on screen, hard-copy documents and it can scan barcodes in shops to provide a description of products. Currently available in English and seven other languages including Japanese, it will also describe images in other apps like Twitter and WhatsApp.
Google Action Blocks
For people with a cognitive disability, Google has come up with the idea of making it easier to carry out common actions such as calling a colleague or a loved one. An Action Block – literally an image or button on the home screen – can be set up on any Android phone.
Using Google Assistant technology, simply touching the Action Block triggers the action, which can include making the phone speak words for those with communication difficulties. The app is available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese.
Zoom, one of the fastest growing virtual meeting apps last year, has followed in the footsteps of Google Hangout and Microsoft Teams by introducing live captioning to help hearing impaired users take part in online meetings. The app also allows users to obtain a transcript of a recorded meeting after it has finished.
As well as its own functionality, Zoom has enabled integration with other transcription apps. So far, 26 third-party transcription apps have been approved for use with Zoom through the company’s app marketplace.
Android Voice Access
Google involved people with motor disabilities in the design of its voice-activated Android smartphone app. The ability to use the phone’s functions without touching the screen was an essential first step.
But feedback from people with disabilities stressed the importance of being able to activate functions with just a few words. To make this quick and effective, Google developed a series of what it calls “intuitive labels” – phrases most people would be likely to use.