Before adaptation comes information – Assisting those most in need

The digital community gets broader with every passing year, but it still runs the risk of ostracizing those perhaps most in need. People living with disability increase as a percentage of the global population every year, yet are one of the groups least likely to access the internet; Pew Research estimates that disability is a leading barrier to internet access for the 7% of Americans who aren’t online.

Addressing this is not only a matter of increasing the reach of the web, but of fairness, and of basic ethical imperatives, in addition to improving healthcare outcomes. However, as history shows, bespoke solutions are not always forthcoming.

Adjusting treatment
Taking a precise and measured approach to treatment, and understanding how this impacts a person living with a disability, is the first step – and a crucial one. A good example of how treatment can be misapplied can be seen in therapy for cerebral palsy.

There are a wealth of up-to-date and high-quality cerebral palsy resources online that document exactly how the condition should be approached. However, for many older people and children alike, a societal misconception as to how the condition should be treated has led to those diagnosed receiving less physical treatment than they need, as highlighted by EurekaAlert!.

This process of not fully assessing critical information is in place for generalized disability treatments across medicine; having a proper information repository that can be accessed equally and unilaterally is key before accessibility changes are made.

Algorithmic bias
This bias has been seen in AI of the past; Slate notes how algorithmic bias has hurt people living with a disability. In the new age of AI, information on medical conditions and health care is being presented first-hand to be used from the start of development.

The policy interest of bodies like Google in fairness and accessibility being widespread has aided this new way of designing technological pieces. With data being placed at the forefront, bespoke solutions to allow those living with a disability to access the internet and the high end of technology are becoming a reality.

Transformative tech
Using data and information in this manner for creating new tech that science has shown can go far beyond even its own goals. A paper published by the ACM Digital Library highlights the use of TalkingBox, a system designed for people living with cognitive impairment. Not only does the box provide a bespoke tool to help people living with a disability communicate and gain a greater degree of independence, but it acts as a data-gathering point. It enables the user to exhibit strengths and weaknesses, and also to show where discrimination or bias was occurring. In turn, this creates entirely new data sets to inform the next generation.

That use of data is crucial in the ongoing development of disability-appropriate tech. New tech must provide proper care and enable independence through using high-quality and accurate data. Gathering that with the best of the old is arguably the most accurate way to collect information in a sensitive manner.


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