Technological advances must be accessible to people with disabilities

I recently reflected on how my life has changed since I became a visually impaired college student. I now interact daily with useful tools that I didn’t even think of in the 1990s or when I was the EU’s transatlantic leader (exchange).

If thoughtfully designed and implemented, emerging technological tools can open doors for people with disabilities. However, rights and equality for lawyers with disabilities may be reduced or even eliminated if burden shifting occurs between key social actors such as developers and employers. I thought this column might explore some of the issues around tech inclusion.

When I co-designed and co-chaired a workshop at the Technology Convergence Summit hosted by the German Marshall Fund in the United States, we argued that we are all living in extraordinary times, where profound social and technological change is affecting the historically marginalized. Community.

Specifically, there seems to be a temptation to preach about digital accessibility in the public sector while bemoaning it in the private sector.

July 2022, Senator. Rep. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) chaired the hearing of the Select Committee on Aging to examine the barriers or challenges seniors and people with disabilities face in accessing important online resources of the federal government. He is pressing for an answer to why barriers to web access still exist. As the chart shows, there are few perfect actors when it comes to technological convergence.

For many of us who are blind and haven’t officially driven, it seems like a belated opportunity, if anything, to drive through a semi-perceived 1968 Ford Mustang. Mid-21st-century vehicles, even in so-called “smart cities,” generally lack strong disability inclusion. I was delighted and inspired to co-present with the esteemed Tim Adams on “Smart Cities” at the Maryland League of Municipalities fall meeting.

(If self-driving cars become an inclusive reality, I hope my chivalrous classic vehicle has less attitude than my current guide dog.)

There is a potential intersection between the healthcare needs of people with disabilities and advances in healthcare technology. In 2022, the Department of Health Affairs publishes a question documenting and explaining disability-related disparities in health care. I’m optimistic that we can reach the health scores of other countries if we shift more of the health care system’s focus toward integrated models of health care and individual empowerment, and sometimes incentives.

I thought about the burgeoning market for “wearables” that track physical activity, vital signs, and sleep. These already play a key role in communicating and sharing data with suppliers. Yet many digital realms remain inaccessible or incompletely usable, preventing real improvements in healthcare for people with disabilities.

The next Maryland Secretary of Disability Affairs should pay special attention to the emerging intersection of health care and technology.

There is a need for “hard law” measures to set a bottom line rather than an upper bound on what can happen. As an example, the Accessibility Council of the United States, an agency that promotes accessibility for persons with disabilities, issues an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, an important administrative law step toward enacting federal regulations.

The federal agency seeks public comment related to the design, type, and use of self-service transaction machines, such as self-service kiosks. Many people with disabilities do not have access to these.

In addition, anti-discrimination law tends to focus on “victims” who are late in the social paradigm: failure of interactions, perceptions of rights violations, and subsequent litigation. As the use of AI data increases, innovative guardrails can be put in place to facilitate access and prosperity for everyone.

Any best practice should include disability as an aspect of diversity and as part of all diversity efforts. For this to happen, we must all actively work to address the barriers that exist for people with disabilities so they can thrive as part of the community.

“Women on The Move,” presented by Associated Black Charities, is an example that the disability rights community should follow. I see events of this quality for women of all backgrounds and people of color, but very few of them focus on the economic empowerment of people with disabilities. Known for my juntos and salons, I will be looking into expanding one of these with a focus on disability inclusion.

The next Disability Minister can play an active role in convening financiers, leaders in the DBE field, technologists and other thought leaders to develop ways to economically empower people with disabilities.

When both sides of the political pathway approach power with optimism and thoughtfulness, there is great potential to improve the lives of people with disabilities and all citizens. Maryland needs its next disability secretary to be an engaged, tech-savvy voice for people with disabilities.

Gary C. Norman, Esq., LL.M. is past chair of the Maryland Civil Rights Commission. He can be reached at (410) 241-6745.

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