ERIC Number: ED496279
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2006-Dec-19
Over the Horizon: Potential Impact of Emerging Trends in Information and Communication Technology on Disability Policy and Practice
National Council on Disability
This policy paper explores key trends in information and communication technology, highlights the potential opportunities and problems these trends present for people with disabilities, and suggests some strategies to maximize opportunities and avoid potential problems and barriers. Specifically, this paper discusses technology trends that present opportunities for universally designed products, and for improved availability, usability, and affordability of assistive technology that can have significant impact on quality of life for people with disabilities. The first trend discussed is the ever-increasing computational power plus the decreasing size and cost of technology--resulting in technology that is more portable, affordable, and for which it is easier to build in access. Second, advances in interface technology are creating new opportunities for better assistive technologies, more accessible mainstream technologies, and entirely new ways for users to control both. Third, new advances will soon enable people to be connected to communication and information networks, at any time, wherever they are--making real time assistance only a button press or voice command away. Finally, the proliferation of virtual places via the World Wide Web is changing the way we approach communications, education, work, and commerce, increasing access to goods and services without the need to leave home. Seven general action items are advanced and discussed: (1) Maximize the effectiveness of assistive technologies and lower their cost--in order to maximize people's general abilities and independence. Key strategies: Foster results-oriented R & D all the way to commercial availability; (2) Maximize the accessibility of mainstream information and communication technology products, so that people with disabilities and seniors can use standard products as they encounter them. Key strategies: Increase funding for research, proof of concept, and commercial hardening of approaches to accessible design of mainstream products to advance understanding in this area; craft accessibility regulations so as to help employees build business cases; (3) Ensure that access to the Internet and other virtual environments is provided, as it has been to physical places of public accommodation; (4) Address new barriers to the accessibility of digital media caused by digital rights management (DRM), including when visual and audio rights are sold separately; (5) Base all policy regarding information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility on a realization of the importance of the business case. Where a solid business case cannot be built based on market forces alone, create accessibility regulations and effective enforcement mechanisms that provide a clear profit advantage to those who comply and a disadvantage to those who do not; (6) Create accessibility laws and regulations that are not technology specific, but are based on the functions of a device. Provide clear guidance as to what is sufficient to meet the standard, and allow requirements to index themselves to technologies, as they evolve, using baselines. To the extent possible, harmonize laws and regulations with those of other countries for products that are sold internationally; and (7) Ensure that up-to-date information about accessible mainstream technology (AMT) and assistive technology (AT) is available to and being used by the public.
Descriptors: Internet, Information Technology, Disabilities, Assistive Technology, Quality of Life, Accessibility (for Disabled), Public Policy, Technological Advancement, Research and Development, Older Adults, Intellectual Property, Telecommunications, Laws, Information Dissemination, International Cooperation
National Council on Disability. 1331 F Street NW Suite 850, Washington, DC 20004. Tel: 202-272-2004; Fax: 202-272-2022; Web site: http://www.ncd.gov/
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Council on Disability, Washington, DC.