Connected Technologies Help People with Disabilities Transcend Barriers – Is Unemployment Next?
March 19, 2018 | Susan Diegelman, AAPD Board Member
Over the past few years, the promise of connected technology for people with disabilities has developed into an expectation. Now that the deployment of 5G networks — the next generation of wireless Internet — has truly begun, the Internet will increasingly support more sensors and devices, which will help bring this promise to bear in amazing ways.
We are already seeing connected technologies help people with disabilities accomplish a wide range of essential daily tasks like starting the dishwasher, boarding a city bus, or remembering to take medication on time. And as the new 5G network delivers lower latency and better battery life, devices for independent living will become invaluable tools to enable an even-further expanded range of activity.
As important as these types of 5G-powered devices will be, they only represent a start to the innovative possibilities and problem-solving that high-speed wireless broadband can unlock. Could 5G-connected cars mean a driverless future where blind people can drive independently? Could connected technologies be used to solve complex problems for people with disabilities like unemployment?
Employment, as we know, goes hand-in-hand with independence. Too often people with disabilities who don’t have the assistance they need are put at a disadvantage in the job market. In fact, the National Federation of the Blind estimates that almost 70% of people who are blind or low vision are unemployed. That’s unacceptable. And with new connected technology, we can do more than ever before to chip away at a deficit like that. Can you imagine, a connected technology company directing resources and using novel approaches to tackle this issue?
Now, there’s no need to imagine. Aira, a rapidly growing assistive technology subscription service, has recently announced the Aira Employment Program, a free service for job seekers already subscribed to Aria who are blind or low vision to use as they navigate the employment process. Aira uses smart glasses to stream live video — as well as GPS and web data — to a remote, human agent who then offers real-time, on-demand assistance.
People use Aira not only to complete a variety of daily tasks but to work toward the employment they deserve by searching online job postings, filling out applications, and updating resumes. The service even helps job seekers travel to and from interviews and pick out what to wear, with any cost for service minutes used on these activities covered by Aira.
As the 5G wireless Internet is deployed to more people, assistive technologies will become more integral to addressing boundaries to visual information and transportation. Let’s applaud Aira and encourage more companies like them to invest in the communities they serve.
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Susan Diegelman is 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.