An Open Internet Empowers People with Disabilities

February 22, 2019 | Susan Diegelman, AAPD Board Member

The internet revolution has been particularly transformative for people with disabilities. The internet has enabled, and continues to enable, remarkable innovation in accessibility technology, including:

  • A cane integrated with sensors for functionalities such as fall detection, SOS voice calls, gait measuring and other mobility tracking.
  • Services that bring eyes to the visually impaired through instant wireless connections and artificial intelligence.
  • A connected prosthetic limb that enables its manufacturer to, through data collection and analysis of user behavior, extend clinical expertise into patients’ daily lives. 

The internet together with broadband access is continuing to improve our daily lives and empower independent living for people with disabilities. Last year, broadband providers led all other industries by investing $66 billion to expand the availability of, and improve, high-speed broadband service – more than any other industry. Sustaining this investment is critical for the disability community as it ultimately leads to more ubiquitous access to innovations in every aspect of life; from simple hands-free automation of household tasks to remote delivery of complex healthcare services.

Internet users expect an open and innovative internet. That means no blocking websites, no censoring online content and no throttling or unfair discrimination based on content. Period.

AT&T has publicly committed to these principles for more than a decade and we will continue abiding by them. Other broadband ISPs have made similar commitments. But it is not enough for only ISPs to make this promise. Internet users can only truly be protected when they know these same core principles apply across their entire internet experience and all companies on the internet are held to the same standard. This is especially critical for members of the disability community, which rely on a combination of broadband service, devices and apps to deliver accessible experiences.

Faster network speeds, augmented reality, virtual reality and other technologies will bring the world much closer to people with disabilities and change the delivery of healthcare in ways we have yet to even imagine. These technologies offer the prospect of a smarter, more mobile and more inclusive vision of society for the lives of people with disabilities.

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Susan Diegelman is the Director of Public Affairs at AT&T and Secretary of the AAPD Board of Directors. She works with advocates across all areas of disability to understand how technology can support independent living and improve lives.

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