THE AMERICANS WITH Disabilities Act turned 25-years-old this weekend, and given its impact on breaking down the barriers disabled people face over the last two and a half decades, it deserves to be celebrated. The ADA offered disabled people unprecedented protections against discrimination and jumpstarted a wave of construction that made the built environment more accessible for disabled people.
Still, for all that the ADA has done to make the physical world more easy for this community to navigate, many still have trouble dealing with the digital world that has become so important to our everyday lives.
At the same time, somewhat counter-intuititively, it?s technology that has the most potential to solve that problem. That?s why, about three months back, AT&T launched its Connect Ability Challenge. Together with New York University?s Ability Lab, AT&T offered up $100,000 in prizes for tech solutions geared toward people living with disabilities.
More than 60 applications poured in from countries around the world. The developers spent months working directly with people from the disabled community in hopes of trying to understand all the nuanced difficulties that they encounter when they try to use technology. And today, just one day after the ADA?s anniversary, the winners were announced.
The grand prize of $25,000 went to a software product called Kinesic Mouse, which enables movement-impaired people to control a PC using only slight head motions and facial expressions. Other winners ranged from mobile technology that transcribes group conversations for hearing-impaired people in real-time to beacon technology that helps blind people scan their surroundings. All of these products showcase technology not only as something that disabled people ought to be able to use, but as something that can help them use it as well.
?When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act after Senator Ted Kennedy championed the bill through Congress, he hoped it would ?tear down the shameful walls of exclusion? that kept disabled Americans from achieving their potential,? New York Senator Chuck Schumer said today at a gathering of technologists, advocates, and academics in downtown Manhattan where the winners were announced. ?What better way to honor the 25th Anniversary of the ADA than with this competition to remove, via technology, what barriers remain.?
Read more at?WIRED