Technology is Creating a “New Era of Accessibility”, Be Part of It

By Robert Iaboni, Altitude Accelerator Marketing and Communications Officer

With the Invictus Games in Toronto this week, all eyes will be on the armed services personnel who were wounded or injured while on duty. This international event, founded by Prince Harry of Wales, includes Paralympic-style sporting events such as wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing. Since these games were founded in 2014, they have risen to become an internationally recognized event where many disabled athletes compete in the sports they love.

However, this was not always the case. Over the past several decades, many technological advances have made it possible for the disabled to compete and ultimately, allow them to play. Advances in technologies such as mobility, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are set to drive an upsurge in accessibility and inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities over the next few years.

When you get information on movie times from Siri, or ask Google directions while you’re driving, or tell Alexa to turn up your music, do you consider it a cool feature, or something life-changing?

For people with disabilities, access to technology that other people take for granted has been an uphill battle. Having impaired sight, hearing, or movement can make websites and devices difficult or impossible to use. In today’s economy, that means being shut out, regardless of your talent or intelligence. That isn’t just unfortunate; it is unjust.

Altitude Accelerator is trying to change this reality.

Along with ARROW Electronics and ICUBE UTM, we are hosting hackABILITY. hackABILITY is an extended hackathon that will bring together passionate and diverse teams to create solutions for individuals with disabilities. hackABILITY will raise awareness about emerging assistive and adaptive technology opportunities, and facilitate the rapid prototyping of devices that may be considered for further development and commercialization. Solutions will be assessed based on innovation, scalability, and affordability criteria.

On September 23rd and 24th, Barry Munro, Chief Development Officer at Canadian Spinal Research Organization, participated in the Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 marathon in Montreal. During this event, he wheeled 5k to raise money for SCI research. While there, he profiled a new type of wheelchair developed by Invacare, one of the world’s largest wheelchair manufacturers. This wheelchair comes equipped with power assist wheels called Tiwon, which gives individuals like Barry (a C5-6 Quadriplegic) the ability to push a manual wheelchair as opposed to a power wheelchair. This is a prime example of how technology has advanced to help individuals with disabilities do the things they truly enjoy. Barry was also able to raise $15,000 for research while acknowledging hackABILITY and its sponsors.

Technology can and will adapt to its users, whether they have no disabilities, or to someone like Barry, who is a Quadriplegic (C5-6).  Join hackABILITY and help become part of the solution, taking the “dis” out of disability.

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