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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media

03/10/2014

Wearable Reality: From Science Fiction to a Store Near You

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Wearable computing or gadgets that you wear on your body have already hit stores. Are users with disabilities ready to adopt them?
 
wearable devices, such as fitness monitors, google glass and smartwatches need to be assessed for accessibility features

Image: Wearable devices, such as fitness monitors, google glass and smartwatches need to be assessed for accessibility features.

Wearables. Phablets. Smartwatch. What next? It's 2014 and if by the end of this year you have not heard of any of these terms, seen them in action at a consumer products show or purchased one for yourself (or pre-ordered it, at least), then you likely do not have an interest in technology or for that matter, digital media.

We have already seen innovations such as clothing designed for those who are wheelchair bound, but putting technology on our bodies is something entirely different. It brings our connection to the wired world very close at hand, where we can utilize it in ways that we have not been able to before. Fitness trackers, mobile apps to monitor our sleeping, eating and working patterns, and other wearable gadgets are helping us quantify ourselves. While wearable technology is not a new reality, they are seeing an unprecedented level of exposure and awareness only now.

I attended the annual ATIA conference in Orlando recently to present on the Described Video Best Practices and saw Google Glass in person for the first time. I'd heard that there has been some work in the area of making it operable with assistive technologies and that certainly is a comfort for users with disabilities. Project Glass is a massive step forward in terms of allowing us to multitask our lives to the point at which we begin to broach new ground in terms of regulations to allow for this, such as while driving. Glass, however, is strictly vision-based, which is in direct conflict for a significant audience requiring accessibility accommodations and that remains a concern. A range of solutions can be worked out, including ‘blink’ and click, and other such facial gesture-controlled actions that will allow you to navigate around media content. So much more is yet to come.

Will we get to the point where it becomes a Star Trek-like existence, with communicators and tri-corders and computers that you can interact with via voice alone? Probably. What then is the implication on how we will consume our media on a daily basis? Will captioning and description be enough to provide an accessible solution? Could the deaf-blind solution go beyond things such as Braille and the sense of touch? Could it involve other senses, scent for instance, to convey the emotions that we derive from consuming our media? We will simply have to wait and watch as to where the innovations of the Golden Age will take us in the realm of wearable technology.

For now, we will work with the innovations that will come with each annual check-in for the industry at ATIA. Things such as AiSquared’s new Site Cues tool to assist with providing for client side accessibility through a very straightforward solution. One thing is always true in the world of accessibility: there will be something new every day and something more can always be achieved. Until then, we will simply have to wait and watch as to where the innovations of the Golden Age take us.

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Related Resources

Blog: The Glass Promise: Google's Look Into an Inclusive Future | Read David Fazio's Post.
 
Publication: Benefits and Costs of e-Accessibility | Download Free PDF.
 
Event: 5th Annual National Disability Summit 2014 | Melbourne, Australia - March 17-18 | View Event Details.