Print this page

Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Where Does Accessibility Begin for the Internet of Things Ecosystem?

Tell a Friend

The Internet of Things has the potential to transform the landscape of accessibility and bring in system-wide inclusion for users of all abilities, writes Robert Pearson.

By 2018, it is estimated that this market will be worth some 12.6 billion U.S. dollars

Image: By 2018, it is estimated that the warables market will be worth some $12.6 billion.

Toronto recently hosted the Pan American and Parapan American Games (July 10-26 and August 7-15, 2015), where countries from across North, South and Central America competed in dozens of activities. Having successfully hosted these Games, Toronto may now bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. During the Games, I was visiting a team of staff members from Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) working on site at our national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). They were providing live description for the broadcast of the Parapan Games to ensure that the content was accessible to those who may require or enjoy such accommodations. As I walked through the lobby of the building I came across a unique vending machine. The instructions on the front of the machine read as follows:

1) Using your mobile device, connect and log on to the Wi-Fi network being broadcast from with this machine. 

2) Open your Twitter application.

3) Tweet out a specific message containing a series of specific hash tags and @ references.

4) Machine will then dispense what you've won.

A variety of fairly inaccessible bells and whistles followed. The process worked exactly as described and I departed with the trinket that I'd just received from the machine after sending a pre-written Tweet through its internal network.

Internet of Things publication by G3ictWhen we speak of the Internet of Things (IoT), the possibilities are limitless, yet accessibility remains a concern.  As mentioned in the recent G3ict White Paper, Internet of Things: New Promises for Persons with Disabilities: Perhaps the most significant barrier to take full advantage of the Internet of Things is ensuring that all of the players in the ecosystem consider accessibility when developing new products and services. There are a wide variety of companies and organizations that touch the Internet of Things in some way, including device manufacturers, handset manufacturers, networks, and application developers. In order to create an IoT (ecosystem) that works for everyone, accessibility must be a consideration at each stage of the development process. At a minimum, all parties involved in the development of IoT devices and applications should commit to upholding the principles of universal design.

We need to ensure that an understanding of the diverse needs for accessibility in this context is relevant and current. It becomes possible through education and the provision of tools to understand the principles and ensure that the limitless possibilities of IoT applications are created in a manner in which inclusion is standard. It is also likely that any relevant course of education will continue to evolve as the diversity of IoT applications continues to evolve.

For instance, at the moment there is a diversity of references for accessibility – web, media, social media, and ICT. Going forward though, as watches connect to mobile devices, fridges tell you the current time and the temperature outside your house, and vending machines are activated using social media posts, technologies will begin to blend. 

What does that mean for terminology related to accessibility? Do we need to continue to make the differentiation between accessibility techniques related to individual components of technology?  Would a broader phrase be more appropriate? Perhaps, accessibility simply means inclusion. If you ensure compliance to accessible techniques, then you’re simply making it inclusive and ensuring that anyone can utilize the technologies, regardless of how they may be mixed together. 


Related Resources

Blog: Information Accessibility Policy Trends in Japan | Read Professor Hajime Yamada's Article.

Publication: Internet of Things: New Promises for Persons with Disabilities | Download PDF