June 4, 2023

CEO of AIoT chip company XMOSMark Lippett is a technology leader with 25 years of experience in startups, scale-ups and blue-chip companies.

Accessibility – a growing problem

June 2022 deadline for EU Member States to prepare their own documents under the European Accessibility Act (EAA) arrives Digital Accessibility Policy Becomes Law. This is a major global milestone for digital accessibility and a clear message that people around the world who make and sell digital products need to take inclusion seriously.

It’s a big deal that what was once considered “worth having” is now written into legislation – not only is it protected by regulation, but it also has a direct impact on brand reputation and image. No one wants to be a brand that doesn’t play by the rules in any practice, especially when it comes to social responsibility and inclusivity.

For those developing accessible technology, this legislative action adds extra urgency to their work. Alternatives are no longer an option because they simply cannot pass legal requirements. The Directive establishes the need for quality, regulation and conformity, which places additional demands on all those involved in the design process.

Voice, Image and Next Steps

Far-field voice technology (capable of operating in noisy rooms) is one of the various ways to provide accessibility – and it’s invaluable for people with vision problems or limited mobility – building this voice capability into Experiences in consumer electronics that will improve quality across the most inclusive cross-sections of society.

Of course, in the future, far-field voice will no longer be the only way we can bring accessibility to devices like phones, TVs, and smart home assistants. Emerging low frame rate imaging technologies enable systems to recognize human form, position, gestures and other attributes entering a room—features that will help improve accessibility, convenience, and energy consumption.

Moving away from the more traditional realm of visual and auditory stimulation, haptic technology provides another dimension of feedback for those who are visually or hearing impaired. Haptic sensors in the device can respond to user-applied pressure by providing “physical” feedback through resistance, vibration, or a series of taps or buzzing sounds, as an alternative to visual signage or voice commands.

As sensors and on-device processing become more advanced, features like these will become easier to use at scale, increasing the accessibility of smart things for all. However, all of this comes at a price, both literally and in terms of engagement – because people have to make a leap of faith to invest in learning new technologies and their abilities.

As health and home trends expert Jamie Gold recently wrote, the current rate of adoption of voice-controlled features (both in general and those designed to help people with accessibility needs) is driven by operating costs and a lack of synergy between devices and systems. slowed down.

work at hand

The key takeaway for those working in human-machine interfaces is that accessibility is becoming an obligation, not an option. Legislation is coming, and solutions are needed.

It’s easy to gravitate toward solving problems of normal operation, ignoring the significant challenges of setting up and maintaining complex technology. The challenges of cloud-connecting smart things—setting up wifi connections, configuring “routines,” and managing network outages—have their own accessibility issues. The need to move intelligence to the edge—either eliminating the need for always-on connectivity, or at least facilitating its provisioning—is a necessity.

The EU was the first to explicitly set a deadline for accessibility features on digital devices; others will follow. It’s a wake-up call for a “smart product” supply chain that goes beyond the self-interest of proprietary ecosystems and acknowledges the needs and diversity of its customers – focusing on true ease of use, in every Provide inclusivity and accessibility where possible.

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