Emerging Wearable Tech Trends For Improving Accessibility

Nearly 12.8 percent of people in the U.S. have a disability, according to a report on Statista. A number of these people have disabilities affecting their mobility, vision, hearing, and cognition. Despite this, there are still structures, procedures, types of jobs and other aspects of daily living that do not accommodate disabled people. Wearable technology can fill the gap and allow people with disabilities to live and work independently.

If you can’t hear it, feel it

People with a hearing impairment can sense vibrations in the same part of the brain most people use for hearing, according to a study by the University Of Rochester School Of Medicine in New York. There are wearable tech manufacturers that are creating wearables based on this concept. For example, people with impaired hearing can feel music, thanks to inventions like the CuteCircuit Sound shirt. The Sound Shirt is a wearable device that works with software that translates sound into data then sends the data wirelessly to the shirt. This data is then converted into vibrations by 16 micro actuators positioned in different positions on the shirt. The smart shirt works like IoT devices such as smart home devices, which also offer more independent living for people who are disabled. For example, a smart speaker picks up your voice command, translates it into data, and sends that data to a smart light bulb, which responds by turning itself on or off.

Braille for telling the time and reading emails

While the sound shirt helps people who are deaf feel music literally, Braille has been helping people with vision impairment feel letters for years. Now developers have created the Dot smartwatch, which communicates with the user through dynamic Braille. This dynamic Braille allows the user to know who is calling, read emails, check the time and more. Developers may use this concept to create smartphones or tablets for people with vision impairments.

Computer input wearables

Currently, there are computer input devices for people with disabilities to use computers, but these devices are not always comfortable to use. Fortunately, as technology advances, it is becoming possible to create effective computer input devices for people who are disabled that are compact and easy to use. For example, the Tap Strap wearable keyboard device, allows you to type out messages by drumming your fingers on tables or your leg. All these wearables are effective because of the software that helps run them, and they improve when the software also improves.

Real-time translation

Microsoft’s real time translation software can quickly convert raw speech into fluent punctuated language. This can be a game changer if used in wearables. The Microsoft Translator, as the software is called, is already being used to teach deaf students at the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate New York. For it to work, a lecturer wears a headset that picks up what they are saying and sends it to the software, which then converts it into readable subtitles. These subtitles are then projected on a screen behind the lecturer.

Imagine if this technology was used to create glasses that deaf people could wear to allow them have real-time conversations with people without having to read lips. With new smart communication tech popping up all over the world almost every other month, it’s easy to predict that the future of accessibility is exciting.