Inclusive Tech: Is The Tech Industry Inclusive For Consumers?
In the tech industry, it’s important to keep up with the latest innovations as technology is forever evolving and changing. Technology is made to improve consumer lives, and for many it does. Whether that be helping you get up in the morning with an alarm app, or helping you commute to work in your new car, or making your work break that little bit more entertaining with a good podcast on your earbuds.
But what happens when those technologies that are now an everyday must-have, can’t be used by everyone? Inclusive tech unfortunately isn’t as common as it should be, and it leads to many under-represented people being left out or unable to use these technologies. We’ll be breaking down what inclusive tech means, why it matters, and what the tech industry is doing to raise its inclusiveness!
What Is Inclusive Tech?
Inclusive technology makes products accessible for people of all abilities. Do you know how many people live with some form of disability in the world? It’s 1 billion. That is roughly 15% of the population. So what does this mean for tech companies and their consumers? Well, it means that there is a large group of people who need to be taken into account when designing products. If a company takes this approach for their products, they can then be inclusive and accessible.
Unfortunately, not all tech companies have an inclusive approach when designing and creating their products, and it shows. According to research, Americans with disabilities are roughly three times as likely as the ‘average’ American to never go online, they’re also 20% less likely to own a computer, smartphone, or a tablet. Inclusive tech hopes to change this statistic, giving everyone an opportunity to use and enjoy the technology we all love.
What Is Tech Doing To Become More Inclusive?
Aural Notification Options To Include Those With Visual Impairments
Aural notifications, known alternatively as audible or spoken notifications, are device notifications that read out your alert. For example, if you select aural notifications on your mobile device, instead of the usual ping or vibration alert you get when receiving a text, you will receive a spoken alert which can read out the notification for you.
This inclusive tech feature is ideal for those who have visual impairments, as reading might not be an option. Impaired vision affects around 2.2 billion individuals globally, with 49.1 million of those being legally blind. That’s a whole collective of consumers that can’t simply reach for their phone and reply to a text as easily as your average consumer.
To be more inclusive, some tech companies have added aural notifications to their products, which is a great step in the right direction for inclusive tech. Most mobile software has updated to allow aural notifications, making mobile devices still somewhat accessible to those with impaired sight. Mymanu have also adopted aural notifications for their truly wireless CLIK S earbuds, making it possible to receive spoken notifications straight to your ear only – something mobile devices are yet to achieve on their own.
Voice Assistant To Include Those Who Are Immobile Or Visually Impaired
A rising star for inclusive tech is voice assistant, and you can find this feature on a fair few products. Voice assistant uses voice recognition along with language processing algorithms and voice synthesis to listen, compute, and answer voice commands from the user. So when you ask Alexa what time it is, or ask Siri to text your friend, it’s all thanks to the helpful voice assistant technology.
Smart home devices are most well known for their voice assisted technology, along with Apple’s Siri and Google’s AI assistant on mobile devices. Voice assistants are steadily rising in use, with 4.8 billion voice assistant products being used in 2020, and a projected 8.4 billion units used by 2024. Even some smart earbuds have their own voice assistant technology, such as Mymanu TITAN. The earbuds have their own proprietary voice assistant and use 4G eSIM technology to connect to the internet without a mobile phone – simply say ‘hey manu’ to get the voice assistant activated and then give your command!
Voice assistants are inclusive for those with sight impairments because they don’t rely on screens or any visual cues. Voice assistants like those you find on smart devices are also great for those who are immobile, as some devices can turn on your lights, heating, and other household functions for you, so you don’t have to move around your house. Another perk to voice assistants is the ability to use them hands-free; most voice assistants, once activated either by voice or by a button, don’t require any further physical action from the user, meaning you can easily multi-task.
Auto Generated Transcripts And Captions To Include Those Who Are Hard Of Hearing
Auto generated transcripts and captions, more commonly known as subtitles, are an inclusive tech option that is yet to be adopted by most mainstream tech companies and products. This is where speech on things like online videos, live streams, phone calls and even live conversations is automatically captioned or a transcript of said speech is generated.
Auto generated transcripts and captions are the most inclusive, as they allow those who are hard of hearing to join in on things like TV shows, social media videos, conversations and more. Over 5% of the world’s population (430 million people) have disabling hearing loss, and it’s estimated that by 2050 this will rise to one in every ten people (over 700 million people). With such high numbers of individuals who are hard of hearing, this simple feature can make thousands of products and platforms more inclusive for all.
This kind of inclusive tech feature is available on some video conferencing systems, a few video sharing platforms, and some social media platforms, too. While the majority of platforms and products offer no captioning or transcripts at all, the small few that do offer this service are a mixture of automatic and manual captions, meaning that on some platforms the user will have to manually create their own captions.
Although auto generated transcripts aren’t as common as captions, they still play an important role in making certain technology more inclusive and accessible. For example, the MyJuno translation app offers automatic transcripts on things like voice notes and physical conversations, so along with the ability to translate in over 35 languages, you also have to option to use text if you can’t use the voice function to communicate.
The tech industry has been making strides to make products and services more inclusive. The industry still needs to overcome technical challenges to make all products inclusive to everyone. However, more still needs to be done to ensure the options available to people with some forms of disability are appropriate to them. At CEH Technologies, we are proud to try and make our earbuds as inclusive as possible and give everyone the chance to use our unique products.
What do you think? Do you think that the tech industry is doing enough when it comes to being fully inclusive? Let us know in the comments!