Editorial and Comment

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09/11/2016

Kevin Carey argues against the elite's use of regulation.

Brewing up a storm  »

09/11/2016

Editor John Lamb wonders which way AT is blowing.

Access at a snail's pace  »

20/05/2013

Two steps forward and one step back

Page 1 of 6 forward

Access at a snail's pace

'Two steps forward and one step back’ was the title of a recent talk on disability by Dame Anne Begg, the first MP to use a wheelchair. 

It is an appropriate metaphor for the progress of assistive technology. 

Like the snail that makes its way up a pole at night, but drops back during the day, achieving accessibility is a slow process. 

Samsung, a company that leads the tablet and smartphone makers in the Android camp, recently demonstrated just how paper thin inclusivity is in corporate thinking. 

The company’s effort to have Apple’s VoiceOver banned because it infringed a Samsung patent was rightly thrown out by a court.  

But that Samsung should have ever thought of bringing the action shows how little the needs of disabled people figure in its thinking. 

Surely it must be one of the PR blunders of the year. 

The incident underlines just how important it is that we maintain independent assistive technology companies that understand the needs of disabled people. 

Fortunately, the app revolution is throwing up plenty of innovative firms that have developed interesting products such as MiFinder, a location-based dating app, CarePair, a service that helps disabled people find carers, and AME Communicate, which has developed text to speech software. 

Not only do these organisations really understand their customers’ needs but they also provide employment to a group of people who find it hard to get a start in the open jobs market. 

It is good to see that some mainstream firms such as the PC company Dell are backing them as well. Dell plans to sell and support assistive technology in the UK through its own channels. 

This good news has to be set against cuts in benefits that make it all the more difficult for disabled people to actually afford life enhancing technology, especially when it comes to mobility aids such as adapted cars, scooters and wheelchairs, which are now subject to tougher thresholds. 

Developments such as the exoskeleton we feature on the front page are exciting developments, but they must be beyond the reach of anyone depending on a personal independence payment. 

The snail has a way to go before it reaches its goal.



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