When new technology supports the users
It feels as if everything has already been said about how tired we are of starring at our screens. But at the same time, no one wants to think about living in lock down without digital solutions. Fortunately, people continue to develop smart things even in tough times.
Maybe technology will solve accessibility problems in the future and we can all retire? A few years ago, abbreviations in the field of technology started to make it hard to communicate. All self-respecting companies talked about AI, VR and AR, but it did not really feel like everyone understood what it was actually about - more than that, as usual, it was supposed to be the future.
We are not quite there yet, but there are many good examples to lighten up these troubled times:
As a web author, AI can help you when describing images for blind users, using automaticly generated suggestions for alternative text descriptions (ALT text). The suggestions are getting much better. Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others offer this as standard in their solutions. The proposals are not always right, but the fact that a proposal for an ALT-text does appear makes it difficult for the content creator not to act.
With the automatic suggestions, web authors who previously did not know that they should provide ALT-texts to their images become aware of it. At the same time, web authors who find it difficult or cumbersome can get help on the fly. The automatically generated suggestions provide support to anyone who is in a hurry or is just a little lazy (quite common among humans).
This way, technology can actually educate people, which is an overwhelming thought in all its simplicity.
At Funka, we have never met anyone like this, but we are told that there are people who do not care about accessibility. Their images also get an alternative description, which means the technology is both generous and democratic.
Similarly, automatic captioning is gradually getting better, which we have reported on several times before. Automatic captioning is built into more software, the quality is improving, and more and more languages are covered. We believe that soon enough, there will be no valid reason to claim disproportionate burden when it comes to captioning – as technology is doing a good enough job for us.
Virtual reality, VR, is increasingly used, not least in healthcare. One example among many is a Danish company which specialises in ensuring that children have other things to think about - and also sit still - when they undergo medical examinations or treatments that may be scary or painful. A combination of gamification, emerging technology and understanding of human needs makes the innovation successful.
In one of Funka's research projects, we use virtual reality and 360 ° video to increase awareness and knowledge about hidden disabilities. With the help of this technology, it is easier to efficiently provide insights that are difficult to convey verbally. Well-made feature films with suggestive music have used this idea for many years, but with VR technology, it is possible to take the experience to a new level.
But what does this mean - really?
It is complicated with abbreviations that are difficult to explain, understand and translate into something most users can relate to. Technology, usage and terminology usually need some time to settle.
It is still difficult to know if the people you talk to grasp the inner meaning of artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning, let alone virtual or augmented reality. But that’s all yesterdays news – welcome to XR. The industry has not really decided what it means yet, but in essence it has to do with VR, AR and the so-called mixed reality.
The international standardisation body W3C recently published a first draft of a standard on user requirements for XR. It is valuable that a first attempt to define where different aspects of accessibility come into the picture is now published. While new technology can contribute to solutions, it also risks creating new problems, unless the users' needs are considered early on.
There is also a network of companies and research institutions that work with XR and accessibility, XRAccess, which publishes research results and guidelines on the subject for anyone who wants to learn more.
Maybe it's beneficial to cover all these new ideas in a single collective abbreviation that includes all the hardware, software and technology, or a mixture of everything? Or, XR will just add another layer of confusion, where the distance between "we who know" and "we who do not understand" becomes greater. Or, maybe I'm just getting old.
Related chronicles by Susanna Laurin
16 June 2022
Right now, accessibility is on everyone's lips. The combination of rapid and widespread digitisation, new legal requirements from the European Commission and a greater number of users who react to technology fatigue in the wake of the pandemic, means that the focus is on "our" issues. However, there is still some confusion about the key aspects EU legislation on accessibility.
14 December 2020
The main reason for conferences and meetings is, well, to meet. Speakers and panels are of course important, but quite often the most interesting conversations occur during the coffee break. This is hard to replicate when most events happen online.
6 May 2019
Sometimes progress is hard to spot if you are in the middle of the whole thing. It might be useful to take a step back and reflect on all the different things going on in our business. The evolution is quite impressive, says Funka's Research and Innovation Officer.
7 February 2019
Funka's CEO Susanna Laurin reports from a debate in the European Parliament and international standardization that deals with the inclusion of elderly in IT development.
29 November 2018
Another year of accessibility work is coming to an end. Funkas’ Susanna Laurin writes about the importance of positive feedback and the need to give appreciation to those who do the right thing.
14 August 2018
Monitoring and possible fines can be a driving force for accessibility. But at the same time, threats can mean that services are taken down. How do we make sure that legislation increases accessibility?
29 May 2018
Funka's Susanna Laurin sees similarities between working with accessibility and taking care of a wooden boat. Both activities require patience and the results can make many people happy.
5 December 2017
The International Day of Disabled Persons keeps us busy in all our markets. This year we contribute to the Inclusion Days program in Berlin, Germany.
8 November 2017
A judicial precedent now allows for a tighter interpretation of the Swedish law on support and services for certain disabled people. This may mean that many people lose their right to personal assistance. Do we really want people to be denied a worthy life on equal terms with others?
12 June 2017
As the sun glistens in the ocean, the birds wake me up in the early mornings and life gets a little easier once sunshine and warm weather turn our latitudes into paradise, a report on digitization makes me even more happy.
6 March 2017
We are always interested in what is going on in our market. When two conferences on accessibility, gaming and assistive technology happens in the same week, the agenda is filling up.
7 February 2017
Funka’s Susanna Laurin reports from an EU conference on accessibility and legislation in Brussels. The focus is, as usual, on the economy.
6 January 2017
Two of our very competent consultants have tried their wings with our clients and then chosen to come back to Funka. Naturally, we're very excited and we've asked Oskar and Karin to tell us a little bit about their experiences.
8 December 2016
Funka’s Susanna Laurin ponders what we celebrate on the international day of persons with disabilities. Accessibility seems - more than ever - a moving target.
4 July 2016
Funka’s Susanna Laurin is reporting on an exciting meeting of experts from all over the world, at the US Access Board in Washington.
17 June 2016
The French association for the visually impaired, BrailleNet, arrange an annual conference on digital accessibility. The theme for the 2016 edition was the internet of things. Funka’s own Susanna Laurin is reporting from the conference.
10 March 2016
An unsettling trend is happening in the U.S.: by using legislation as a battering ram lawyers are making money, but inaccessibility persist.
30 November 2015
Susanna Laurin's reflections on the situation for people with disabilities face in the world today.
11 September 2015
Funka’s CEO Susanna Laurin reflects on cultural differences between Spain and Sweden, personal integrity and how badly things can get, even when you try your hardest to do the right thing.
18 June 2015
Funka’s Susanna Laurin considers trends in accessibility and the fact that we no longer have much time to reflect.
18 March 2015
Different safety and technology aspects are being brought up as arguments against e-voting, but these problems must be possible to overcome. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes some time to reflect upon the democratic perspective of e-voting and today's broad lack of accessibility.
29 October 2014
Funka’s Susanna Laurin questions why accessibility and user experience experts are so eager to talk to people with similar opinions. Would it not be better to let different views and opinions meet to bring about change?
19 June 2014
We look back at a hectic period and look forward to even more work. But first of all, we will enjoy the summer holidays.
25 February 2014
Funka’s Susanna Laurin rejoices in the fact that design for all really works in our everyday life.
20 December 2013
Susanna Laurin, Funka, sums up a busy year. A year of continued growth, continued expansion in Norway and a new office in Madrid.
25 October 2013
It is leaning towards legislation on web accessibility in the EU. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes a closer look at what the guidelines that almost everyone is pointing towards actually entail for the users.