The Accessibility Tech Startups Leading Innovation
In the UK, accessibility tech startups are on a roll and making a mark in our society. They are taking a stand and making it their responsibility to make a difference for those who need assistive technology. At least 1 in 5 people in the UK have a long term illness, impairment or disability - with more people experiencing it temporarily. With that said, there’s a huge demand for technology that caters to different abilities and is inclusive for everyone.
It’s time to bring these startups to light and provide recognition for those who need disability technology.
What is digital accessibility?
Digital users have many needs when it comes to the use of digital products. What may appear easy to use for some may be very difficult for others. Digital accessibility is a term used to describe whether a digital product or service (such as an app or website) is usable and inclusive for all its users, taking into account their ability requirements. Ensuring that all users can access the same information, regardless of impairments, is important for the future of global development.
Levels of disability can be measured on a spectrum that differs according to the individual. There can be many differences in the levels people experience, which is why it's crucial that technology can accommodate these unique needs.
As a brief summary, here are some examples of the accessibility technology out there:
- IoT and Interconnected Devices
- Robotic Assistance
- Modified Gaming Platforms and Devices
- Self-Driving Cars
- Assistive Visual Technology
- Screen Reading and Enlargement Software
- Braille Tech Adaptations
- Colour Identification Software
- Text to Speech
- Voice Search for Search Engines
- VoIP, RTT, and VoIP
- Virtual Reality Rehabilitation
- Bluetooth Hearing Devices
What does it mean to be inclusive of accessibility?
Those with a disability are sometimes excluded from using something because it doesn't cater to their needs. We’re now acknowledging and taking the stance that this needs to change. Accessibility enables people with disabilities to go about life using the same time and effort as someone that does not have a disability. People need to feel empowered and independent, to be able to go at their own pace and achieve what they want with ease.
All too often, companies develop products and services to target just one kind of user. This means that it excludes those who are classified differently. Many can suffer from hearing and visual impairments, learning difficulties, autism, dementia and immobility, and we need to find a way to accommodate people of all abilities. We know of the tools to assist in helping individuals, such as hearing aids, audio, bright and dark colour settings, screen magnifiers and speech recognition, so tech should incorporate these tools as standard.
Online and technology services must be able to offer features or adaptations to ensure that their platforms are accessible. Examples of this can include braille keyboards and audio translation for those with visual impairments; or text transcripts for someone with hearing impairments.
To be inclusive of accessibility, systems and models need to be designed to give equal and fair access to opportunities to everyone. The goal should be to be able to develop access for all.
The good news is, many companies now see this as a priority to allow those the freedom to be involved and to learn. It’s time for barriers to be broken and awareness to be made, so people with disabilities have equal opportunities.
Why is accessible technology important?
The importance of accessible technology is fairly evident. Making sure that technology is accessible should be a high priority for IT leaders from an ethical, innovative and social standpoint. Here are some reasons of importance to consider:
Complying with accessible technology laws
The European Accessibility Act set out to make the digital world accessible to everybody, including anyone with a disability. The need for digital products and services that are made easily accessible is huge, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and strain on external help from caregivers and health care professionals.
23 September 2019 - new public sector websites
23 September 2020 - any other public sector website
23 June 2021 - public sector mobile apps
Business benefits of technology accessibility
By building technological products and services that are accessible, you open yourself up to a larger market whilst giving your audience an equal opportunity to enjoy and make the most of your product or service. Tech accessibility opens a wide range of benefits for businesses. Let’s run through them.
By making accessibility readily available, you’re provided with the opportunity to diversify your audience. You’re able to gain increased and improved data to ensure your product or service can run the way it’s supposed to. Reaching an untapped target audience enables your ideas and innovations to expand, as well as to strategically move with the times.
Improves user experience
Being innovative and inclusive with your technology will unlock your potential for user experience. Streamlined processes that take into account the spectrum of accessibility will improve satisfaction, functionality and customer retention.
Be an advocate for accessible technology
Whilst looking at the bigger picture and seeing how making technology accessible could be covered from a legal and business perspective, you may discover the responsibility of ethical advocacy within the industry. Technology is here to help the world become a better place, and this is a great spot to position your business in.
How can technology companies make accessibility a priority?
Businesses have a responsibility to ensure inclusion is their priority, creating technology has the purpose of changing people's lives for the better, ensuring an easier, quicker and more convenient way of living. It makes a difference in the lives of the common user, so further innovation can improve the ease for individuals with disabilities.
Accessibility training courses
Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society
Workplace accessibility training
Scope accessibility training services
Web accessibility training
Access For All Workshop
Tech London Advocates
Tech London Advocates have launched a ‘Tech for disAbility’ group online. Through this group, you can hear how accessibility and disability tech startups are improving the lives of disabled people and helping drive economic growth. Their main objective is to connect the technology and disability communities at the intersection of user needs, technology innovation, the necessity for accessible tech. If you’re looking to embrace and embed accessibility, register here.
Many people these days need more than just quality products and services. They support businesses that go above and beyond to ensure that they are ethically doing the best that they can. The adoption of an accessible design is now at the forefront of expectations which can be tied to a brands’ clear set of values.
Many product designs and engineering teams are already ahead of the game, implementing accessibility design into their everyday processes and practices. As well as that, educational centres focus on teaching the importance of accessibility in their company training programs ensuring a head start and normalisation of the function.
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The leaders of innovation in the startup accessibility technology industry
Here we have some of the most innovative and leading assistive technology startups that are changing the way people live. In some of the most inspiring stories, we see many of the founders and creators finding the demands from their own personal experiences to find a gap in the market. In the UK, an estimated 7,810 people work in 123 companies using or developing tech to address accessibility. We can see that this is a growing market and one that is making social change.
Katja Danilova, Co-founder of Voxmate said that “ there are still very few startups in the field of accessibility, although there is great potential for various developments in this area.” and she carries on to explain that “we talk a lot about sustainability and its importance; I see accessibility as a part of that. It’s sustainable when we all care about each other equally. The more we create with different special needs in mind, the better the world becomes for everyone.”
Walk with Path
Walk With Path, founded in 2014, created a data-driven shoe insole called Path Feel that aids individuals with mobility problems. The product prevents the development of diabetic ulcers and provides vibrational feedback to the soles of people at risk of falls. Their mission is to “create inclusive innovations that make a positive impact” and to “create products to empower people to take charge and move forward”.
The founder Lise Pape was inspired to create Walk With Path after seeing her father struggle with Parkinson's disease. Pape “set out on a mission to create simple solutions that have a positive impact. It was important” to her “that they should have positive benefits and no side effects.
Neatebox aims to revolutionise the customer experience for disabled people. They produced a WelcoME app that enables its users to personalise their profiles to correlate with their disability - whether it be physical, mental or otherwise. The app can trigger a virtual parameter when approaching a venue. The trigger alerts members of staff to then help assist the person with the app. It’s a great way for people with disabilities to get the help and service that they require. Founder, Gavin Neate's worked as a mobility instructor for Guide Dogs Uk and used his knowledge and expertise to create technology for the wider disabled community.
Limitless travel, founded by Angus Drummond, enables its users to view and book package holidays through an online platform catered for people with disabilities. Drummond wants “everyone to be able to pursue their aspirations through travel” and explains that “To be Limitless is a mindset, it means to push yourself to experience things you didn't think it possible to achieve”.
The decision to create such a platform stemmed from his own immobility when he was diagnosed with a muscle weakening condition. Since then, he has developed a travel company that provides those that require accessibility with the ability to travel without limitations.
Recite Me is a cloud-based web accessibility assistive toolbar solution that allows website visitors to customise a site in a way that works best for them. The toolbar can aid by providing text to speech functionality, fully customisable styling features, reading support aids and translation. By providing 100 languages, Recite me has now become a global leading enterprise Saas accessibility solution. Ross Linnet, CEO of Recite me, was diagnosed with dyslexia whilst attending university. The personal assistive technology that was available to him at the time was limited to his particular needs and so, Recite Me was created.
Kraydel work to define the concept of healthy ageing and lead the empowerment of this area. Used by healthcare professionals, Kraydel’s Konnect platform runs on an internet-connected black box that connects to a TV.
Rupinder Singh, Co-founder of Kraydel, said “I had seen a real aspiration to provide care services remotely but none of the technologies introduced in the space had scaled,”
During the Covid-19 Pandemic, home care providers and access support were easily able to be in contact with people using a standard remote control. The British startup raised £1.4m in funding through the equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs to help hundreds of thousands of people living in care homes, isolated at home or residing in hospitals. Keeping in touch with loved ones has never been more accessible thanks to Kraydel!
Founded by Jay Shen, Transreport is a startup technology firm that focuses on inclusion, democratisation and accessibility in transport services. The app saves individuals the inconvenience of having to contact each train operator separately by phone or email to ask for assistance. Disabled passengers can ask and book for assistance across all trainer operators within one app as well as keep up with live journey updates. The app encourages trust and confidence in people with disabilities whilst travelling to and from their required destination.
Re.Flex is a medical technology startup that develops care programs for people with chronic musculoskeletal conditions. They aim to digitise the physical therapy industry and add value to patients, orthopaedic doctors, companies producing joint implants or braces and health insurance companies. By creating a disruptive virtual physical therapy assistant, they have been able to introduce 3D live assistance and exercise detection for patients undergoing an exercise rehabilitation plan.
Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes, is a free mobile app that essentially makes the world and everyday tasks more accessible for blind and low-vision people. Since 2015, 5.5 million volunteers have signed up to assist in over 180 languages. The app connects visually impaired people through a live call video to solve a task that the user may not be able to see. In 2017, Be My Eyes has seen a huge triumph being named the “Most innovative” by Google Play and winning the “Best Accessibility Award” in the Google Play awards.
In the industry of well-established tech companies, you can see examples of accessibility from the likes of Google, Zoom, Apple, and Microsoft. All of which have and are still making substantial changes to their platforms and products to open many doors for their consumers.
It’s needless to say that accessibility within your tech startup is crucial from a business and social responsibility standpoint. There are many ways to cater for the needs of individuals with disabilities and impairments to open up inclusivity and lead the generations to come. If you are a startup company that wants to adopt accessibility into their products, services or workplace, take inspiration from the examples above. Lead the industry with your ideas, set an example and help those who seek guidance and help. Tech startups have changed the way people live for the better and we hope to inspire you on that very same path.
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