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New innovations in assistive technology highlight Global Accessibility Awareness Day

young blind woman with headphone using computer with refreshable braille display
Photo: Dreamstime

May 16, 2024, marks the 13th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a day dedicated to promoting digital access and inclusion for persons with disabilities. This year’s events have showcased several groundbreaking advancements in assistive technology, aiming to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities worldwide.

One of the most notable developments comes from Apple, which has introduced several new features to enhance accessibility across its devices. These include Live Speech, allowing nonspeaking individuals to type to speak during calls; Personal Voice, enabling users to create a synthesized voice that sounds like them; and Detection Mode in Magnifier, which helps users who are blind or have low vision interact with physical objects by reading out loud the text they point to. Additionally, Apple’s Fitness+ now includes ASL in every workout, ensuring accessibility in fitness routines​.

The University of California celebrated GAAD with a series of events emphasizing practical skills and innovative projects in digital accessibility. Highlights included tips for creating accessible presentations and discussions on how to integrate accessibility into classroom settings​.

The UN’s recent report on assistive technology underscored the critical need for these advancements. It revealed that nearly one billion persons with disabilities and older people lack access to essential assistive products like wheelchairs and hearing aids. The report calls for increased funding and prioritization of these technologies to bridge the gap between low- and high-income countries​.

These initiatives and reports reflect a growing recognition of the importance of digital and assistive technologies in creating a more inclusive world for all.

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