When one looks around the world, one sees it very differently depending on one’s abled status. As described by disabledfeminists.com, “Many cultures have social expectations, structures, cultural mores, and institutions that are set-up to accommodate able-bodied and/ or abled people with the most ease; this is, of course, problematic for those who do not fit the standard of “able-bodied,” or “fully able,” whether in whole or part.”
Fundamentally, one must realise that the world is structured for the benefit of non-disabled people. Buildings, transport, and even fashion. Of course, if you’re a differently abled person, this will all be old news to you.
Thankfully, there are products in the market that are designed specifically for people with disabilities. Although not all of these companies ship worldwide or are within the price range of everybody, they at least offer a snapshot of what is available to those who struggle to be accommodated in a world mainly designed by and for abled people. Quite a few of these products have been designed by differently abled people themselves, such as the Kenguru electric car, whose company founder Stacy Zoern has muscular dystrophy. Technological innovation and understanding is the key to creating a more accessible world.
Someone in a wheelchair has the right to clothes that are both comfortable and stylish, but also accommodating to their needs.
As described on the website, Iz Collection clothing “has signature cuts and styles to fit a seated body shape, falling and draping naturally without interfering with wheelchair mechanics.”
They offer both formal and informal styles, as well as plus-sizes.
The SmartCaneTM device is an electronic travel aid, which is added to a white cane for those with visual impairments.
It uses ultrasonic ranging to detect objects in its path, both at knee height and above. It creates vibrations in various patterns to alert the user to the distance information and thus, prevents them from hindrances in their path. It has a detection distance of three meters at present. The mechanism can be adjusted for differing heights. It uses a rechargeable 10-hour battery and has an ergonomic grip for the user’s comfort.
Users such as Indira Sankari in Mumbai describe it as having increased their confidence, “I no more need to hold anyone’s hand for my mobility. I can just be myself.“
Full of both text and images, one wouldn’t imagine that social media sites are particularly accessible to those with visual impairments. However, Facebook has now introduced “automatic alternative text.” Also called automatic alt text, Facebook describes it as “a new development that generates a description of a photo using advancements in object recognition technology.” After all, visually-impaired people have just as much right to being inundated with their friends’ holiday and nightclub photos as everyone else.
Previously, text recognition software would only state “photo” when they moved the cursor over it; now users will be able to hear photos described in detail as they scroll past.
The Kenguru is an electric car that allows the driver to enter while remaining seated in their wheelchair. While other cars require users to collapse their wheelchair and transfer themselves to the interior of a car, the Kenguru allows wheelchairs users to remain seated in their wheelchair. Because it is electric, the Kenguru is an environmentally-friendly choice as well.
Inclov is a matchmaking app based out of India and specifically targeted towards the differently abled. Founders of the app, Kalyani Khona and Shankar Srinivasan, were struck by how 67% of the 100 million people with disabilities in India would not find a life partner. As described on the website, Inclov is a dating app for everyone, but with a particular focus on those with health problems and disabilities, who may have had less success with conventional dating and matchmaking arrangements. It is accessible for the visually impaired and safe for women, with security measures like mobile verification, email verification, profile curation and first name only display. At present, there are about 1000 regular users of the app.
There have already been success stories through this app. 30-year old Anisha Banu Multani and 32-year old Garana Imran M met through the app earlier this year, and will be getting married in May. Both were affected by polio, and both had had little luck with finding partners previously. Even though they already were acquaintances, it was through the app that they both began talking properly, realising that they both had the same hopes for finding a partner with the same life experience.
Le chal is the world’s first smart shoe, using vibrations to guide the user to a predetermined location preset by an app. This extraordinary technology lets those with visual impairments navigate the world using “pods” that utitlise Bluetooth technology to connect to the user’s smartphone. The pods are attached to the smart footwear in an unobtrusive manner, and send vibrations to the user to alert them to turns when navigating the route saved on the app. The app responds to voice commands and foot gestures, making it easily accessible. The company will also subsidise those who wish to buy a pair but cannot afford the present price.
If you have used an accessible product or service, or you have designed one, please write in and share your experiences at [email protected].