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How Technology Can Increase Accessibility for Disabled Customers

Technology Can Increase Accessibility for Disabled Customers

Customers living with disabilities contribute billions of dollars to businesses. Here’s how you can use technology to increase accessibility for your customers.

Dove, Pottery Barn, and Lowe’s have all launched campaigns to help assist customers living with disabilities. Sure, it’s positive public relations but it’s also good for business. Maybe you’re not equipped to launch a multi-million dollar initiative yourself, but you can use simple tech tricks to help include all customers.

Technology is becoming an increasingly ever-present part of the way both business owners and customers navigate our changing marketplace.

During the early days of the pandemic, conducting business through Zoom meetings, curbside pickup, and contactless delivery emerged and became the norm. These technologies made it possible for all consumers to continue accessing businesses.

Now, as pandemic restrictions have been mostly lifted, these technological advancements and others can continue to be used to improve access by people with disabilities. Below are a few great examples of technology that helps everyday businesses…

1. FuelService

The ability to pump one’s own gas is something most people probably take for granted and seldom give a second thought to. However, for disabled people, this process is often quite complicated. A person who is unable to exit their vehicle or pump their own gas due to disability, they are required to wait for a gas station attendant to help them.

To do this, they must either call through the phone (which presents its own set of challenges for Deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech-impaired individuals) and they must hope that someone will actually answer. Alternatively, they can sit outside the gas station honking, not knowing how long they’ll be forced to wait until they are served.

If a gas station attendant is the only person on duty, they are not allowed to leave their post inside, forcing the disabled person to find gas elsewhere. A new app, however, called fuelService, is working to change this very broken system. Through this app, gas stations can sign up to work with the company, which will enroll them in the app’s database.

Once they’re enrolled, disabled people can contact the gas station through the app ahead of time, letting them know when they’ll be arriving, and allowing for a much clearer and more accessible form of communication between the two parties. This technology is relatively simple and free to access for both parties yet is extremely beneficial for everyone involved. Gas stations have more people filling their tanks, and people with disabilities are relieved of the frustration of uncertainties at the pump

2. Restaurant and delivery apps

More and more restaurants are now taking advantage of online or contactless ordering, usually done through apps or websites. This feature is often used by able-bodied people, as many people simply find it convenient to order without calling in or order in person. This technology also makes ordering much easier for those who are Deaf or speech-impaired, or people who would normally have difficulty physically accessing the restaurant itself. These apps often allow for delivery or curbside pickup, both of which may make dining easier for those with physical disabilities.

According to Ameridisability, some companies like Dunkin Donuts and Chipotle have taken their tech one step further by “integrating with Amazon Alexa and other AI voice assistants to allow customers to pre-order with Alexa-enabled devices.”

Other huge chains like McDonalds are working to implement this into their businesses as well, such as allowing customers to order in a drive-through using AI voice assistants. This is a huge win for those with speech disabilities, who historically have struggled to be understood by service workers and may have shied away from utilizing businesses for that very reason.

3. Xfinity Eye Detection by Comcast

Comcast wanted to make sure that watching television was an activity accessible to all, so they introduced a new feature that can be used with existing devices on their X1 cable package. The technology allows for eye-tracking, a way to control the television through eye movement, rather than with a remote or voice control. This allows people with physical disabilities to change channels, record shows, and more.

It is free for users and does not require any additional purchase of technology, as it uses existing hardware and software already found on the devices.

David Ditker, CEO of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) writes that this technology “shows a new level of commitment to access and independence for persons with disabilities.  A company that understands that users have their own specialized technology and works to bridge these technologies in a way that delivers value, deserves applause.”

As technological innovation continues to boom astronomically, so have advances in assistive technology for disabled people. In a world where the use of technology is becoming more and more prominent, using it to improve accessibility should be an important consideration in the future of all businesses. While not all of these technologies included here may be useful to your business, it is important to consider the individualized ways technology can be used in your company for the betterment of all.