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Technology Can Be A Communication Necessity

FaceTime call on iPhone

Accessibility is usually seen as something for companies to worry about. After all, companies can face legal action under accessibility legislation, such as the ADA and Section 508, if their websites are not accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility isn’t something only companies need to consider, though. If you are communicating with a person with a disability, there are things you can do to make the communication “accessible.”

Accessibility is a mindset. If you think about only the 80%, you will not create something that is usable by all. You must think of 100% of people in order to create something that is truly accessible.

This is illustrated best by an encounter that I had recently. Being unable to drive, Uber is essential to my lifestyle, providing inexpensive, instantaneous, and easy-to-access transportation. In today’s fast-paced society, this is an invaluable tool when most people have their own car. I had about 30 minutes between work and the start of a party, and I needed to get going right away. I promise, this is not the start of a joke: “a blind man got into the Uber of a deaf woman…” I was that blind man.

When I got in, she sent me a message on the app that she was deaf. My first thought was “How am I going to communicate with her?” The answer was much simpler than I thought. I just had to think creatively.

The Uber texting feature was just too slow for communication. Using Siri would have made it faster, but then I would have had to deal with voice recognition software issues, such as its poor accuracy.

I knew I couldn’t solve the issue on my own, but the solution was right there. I talked via FaceTime on my iPhone with an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter I know, and asked her to sit on the call during the Uber ride. Now granted, I was in Texas at the time and she was in California, but through the power of technology, the communication could be made accessible. The driver communicated via sign language into the camera, and from there the interpreter spoke the words in English. Then the interpreter signed into the camera and the driver saw it on the screen.

This is only one example of the accessibility mindset of “just make it work.” The solution does not need to be elegant, it just needs to get the job done.

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