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Breaking Barriers: The Ongoing Battle for Inclusive Accessibility and Assistive Technologies

“Technology is only half the story. To embrace openness, we need to evolve and change workplace culture, and promote inclusion to be at the centre of an organisation to empower employees.” 
– Steven Woodgate, Head of Category Management, Samsung Electronics.
March 7, 2024

Living with limited accessibility presents numerous challenges in our daily lives. Imagine trying to enter a public building only to find there are no ramps for wheelchair access, or imagine trying to browse a website, but it must be designed to be compatible with screen readers.

These obstacles are all too common and can be incredibly frustrating for individuals living with disabilities. These challenges aren't just occasional inconveniences—they're a constant reality. Every day, people with disabilities face barriers that prevent them from accessing spaces and services that others may take for granted. Despite these obstacles, individuals with disabilities are resilient.

They advocate tirelessly for spaces and services that are inclusive and accessible to everyone. However, the fight for empowering accessibility is far from over. While progress has been made in some areas, many barriers still need to be addressed. Much work must be done from physical environments to digital platforms to ensure everyone can participate fully in society, regardless of their abilities.

The Importance of Inclusive Accessibility

Everyday tasks like catching a bus or browsing online shouldn't be a struggle because of inadequate accommodations. That's why it's essential to advocate tirelessly for broader access to ensure everyone can participate fully in society, regardless of their abilities. One of the most powerful tools in this fight is the widespread adoption of assistive technologies.

Assistive technologies are devices, software programs, or equipment designed to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. These technologies come in various forms, from simple devices like wheelchairs and hearing aids to advanced software programs like screen readers and text-to-speech programs.

By making assistive technologies standard across all areas of life, we can break down barriers and create a more inclusive society. Whether ensuring that public transportation is accessible to individuals with mobility impairments or making websites compatible with screen readers for those with visual impairments, these technologies are crucial in empowering individuals with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in their communities.

The Challenges of Inclusivity

The absence of inclusive technologies presents significant hurdles for individuals with disabilities. It creates barriers to daily activities and leads to missed opportunities for independence, education, employment, and social connection. Just imagine the impact on their lives if new technologies were thoughtfully designed with their specific needs in mind during the creation of these technologies.

For instance, individuals with visual impairments may struggle to access information on websites that lack screen reader compatibility. This limitation affects their ability to browse the internet and hinders their access to educational resources, job opportunities, and social networks. Similarly, individuals with mobility impairments may face challenges navigating public spaces without wheelchair ramps or accessible transportation options.

By prioritising the development of inclusive technologies, we can bridge these gaps and empower individuals with disabilities to lead more fulfilling lives. Whether it's designing mobile apps with built-in accessibility features or creating adaptive devices that enhance daily living tasks, there's immense potential to improve accessibility and inclusivity across various domains.

Ultimately, embracing inclusive design principles benefits not only individuals with disabilities but also society as a whole, fostering greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Understanding Assistive Technology

Assistive technology refers to a diverse array of tools and resources designed to enhance the functional abilities of individuals with disabilities. These tools can encompass a wide range of products, including but not limited to:
  1. Mobility Aids: Wheelchairs, walkers, and mobility scooters help individuals with mobility impairments navigate their surroundings more independently.
  2. Hearing Devices: Hearing aids and cochlear implants assist individuals with hearing impairments by amplifying sound or directly stimulating the auditory nerve.
  3. Visual Aids: Individuals with visual impairments use Glasses, magnifiers, and screen readers to access written or digital content more effectively.
  4. Communication Devices: Speech-generating devices, communication boards, and text-to-speech programs help individuals with speech or language impairments communicate more efficiently.
  5. Cognitive Aids: Cognitive aids such as memory aids, organisers, and reminder systems assist individuals with cognitive impairments in managing daily tasks and routines.
  6. Adaptive Computer Hardware and Software: Specially designed keyboards, switches, and software programs enable individuals with physical disabilities to access and interact with computers and digital devices.
  7. Environmental Controls: Devices that automate household appliances, lighting, and temperature controls allow individuals with mobility or dexterity impairments to manage their living environment independently.
By leveraging assistive technology, individuals with disabilities can enhance their independence, productivity, and quality of life. These tools are crucial in mitigating barriers and empowering individuals to participate more fully in daily living, education, employment, and social interaction.

“The price gap between accessible and non-accessible products is definitely an issue. Take Lift ware, a customer would have to spend nearly $300 for a basic cutlery set. Comparatively, a person without the need for accessible cutlery set from IKEA for less than $4.”

– Poppy Greenfield, Disability Activist

Limitations of Technology as a Sole Solution

While technology has undoubtedly improved the lives of individuals with disabilities, it's essential to recognise its limitations when viewed as the sole solution to accessibility challenges. Many technological solutions primarily target individual needs rather than addressing broader environmental barriers.

For instance, while advanced wheelchairs equipped to navigate stairs offer increased mobility for users, they don't address the underlying issue of inaccessible buildings. This approach places the burden on individuals with disabilities to acquire specific technologies rather than encouraging society to create inclusive environments.

By placing too much emphasis on technological solutions, there's a risk of shifting responsibility away from society to be more inclusive in its built environment design. Instead of addressing systemic barriers, such as inaccessible infrastructure or digital platforms, reliance on technology may perpetuate the status quo and fail to promote meaningful societal change.

True inclusivity requires a holistic approach considering individual needs and systemic barriers. Inclusive design principles prioritise creating environments, products, and systems that can be accessed and used by people of all abilities. By focusing on inclusive design, society can create more accessible and equitable spaces for everyone, regardless of their ability level.

The Importance of Culture and Inclusion

Steven Woodgate, Head of category management at Samsung Electronics, highlights a crucial aspect often overlooked in discussions about accessibility: the role of culture and inclusion. While technology plays a significant role in enhancing accessibility, it's only part of the equation. Woodgate stresses that true empowerment comes from evolving workplace culture and fostering inclusivity within organisations.

Inclusion should be at the forefront of organisational priorities, ensuring all employees feel valued and supported regardless of ability. By promoting a culture of inclusivity, companies can create environments where everyone can contribute their unique perspectives and talents. This approach not only benefits employees with disabilities but also enriches the overall workplace environment, leading to greater innovation, productivity, and employee satisfaction.

Challenges with Accessibility Costs

In addition to the limitations of technology as a sole solution, there are significant challenges related to the cost and availability of assistive technologies. Many of these tools come with hefty price tags, placing them out of reach for a large portion of the population who could greatly benefit from them. This creates a barrier to access, perpetuating inequalities for individuals with disabilities.

Addressing these challenges requires increased investment in national assistive technology programs and systems. By allocating resources to make these technologies more affordable and accessible, governments can help bridge the gap and ensure everyone has equal access to essential tools and resources. Additionally, raising awareness about the importance of assistive technologies and their impact on individuals' lives is crucial in advocating for greater support and funding in this area.

Addressing Accessibility Gaps

Furthermore, many assistive products come with high costs and require additional services before and after purchase, such as installation and maintenance, which involve trained personnel. This further complicates access for people with disabilities, as they may face barriers to accessing these services.

To address these challenges, collaborative efforts are needed across various sectors. This includes advocating for policies that prioritise accessibility and funding initiatives aimed at making assistive technologies more affordable and accessible. By working together, we can ensure everyone has equal opportunities and access to the support they need to thrive, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.


In summary, the advocacy for inclusive accessibility and the widespread adoption of assistive technologies play a pivotal role in fostering a more inclusive society. By tackling the challenges related to the affordability, availability, and awareness of assistive technologies, we can effectively dismantle barriers and empower individuals with disabilities to lead more independent and inclusive lives.

We must continue to advocate for policies and initiatives that prioritise accessibility, ensure affordability, and raise awareness about the importance of assistive technologies. Through concerted efforts across various sectors, we can create a society where everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, has equal access to opportunities and resources. Together, we can build a more inclusive world where everyone can thrive and contribute to their fullest potential.

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