Do you ever wonder why most products and services aren’t accessibility optimized? Why there is a lot of focus on words used to describe and talk about disabilities than there are products that make life easier for the affected? Don’t get me wrong, words matter, a lot. But when I hear something about old tech in most products for disabled people, I wonder. There’s so much amazing stuff out there today, why does this industry seem forgotten?
The technology available today is capable of much more than is offered. Are the crickets a result of lack of projected future billions in accessible products? Because that seems to be the major reason people build companies. I’m not here to antagonize any company or service, or to preach the evils of capitalsim. There are tons of articles online for that already. There some cool stuff out there though, like Microsoft’s recent push for adaptive tools, Xbox’s adaptive controller, and JerryRig’s awesome off-road wheelchair. So, it isn’t absolute crickets, even though most adaptive products are indie/DIY hacks than companies from what I can tell. I admit I’m not well read in this area. My interest is something that recently started again, and is currently gaining momentum (hence my writing this).
Today’s write up is born out of a prompt for a 45 minute 3D modeling competition on discord. It’s something that is hosted in a server I’m in, to train quick idea generation and building. The prompt was, “Make a Game Controller for the physically challenged/disabled.” After browsing online, I started thinking of something compact and modular, with swappable parts. My main inspiration was from the dead modular phones of Project Ara (something I hope comes to life again, someday). I ran out of time while trying to figure out what pattern makes sense. The render, though incomplete and toylike, has given me something to think about. I plan to improve on this down the line.
Post the competition, I remembered this article by Britt Young. She talks about what’s wrong with prosthetics industry, and also mentions an unfortunate reflex action of human beings. We love to stare, especially at something that isn’t within our sphere of normal. That aside, I’d like to see a day when this,
“…none of us are utterly independent; we are constantly receiving help from other people…”
becomes history. When someone disabled can live independently and function optimally without needing a caretaker of any sort.
Do you know how when you’re searching for direction and somehow, everything starts pointing towards a particular thing? Like God is speaking to you? This is what I started feeling after the 3D challenge. I have been thinking a lot about where I’d love to niche down, and thoughts about this industry has popped up several times. I had previously (in private) documented my thoughts on Max Tegmark’s lecture on Life 3.0. My thoughts circle around how AGI (Advanced General Intelligence) could serve as the advanced assistants that level the playing ground. A playground where someone disabled has as much chance to build a billion-dollar company as someone who isn’t, without any extra stress beyond the normal. I want this because, sadly, most people with disabilities don’t fall under the rich class.
I’d love to see more in this space. I hope to find more that is being done as I read more. I hope my interest isn’t a fling. I’m bullish on humans being large rather than small (nice pun there). It’s why I want to see Elon’s Mars vision happen. Why I want AGI to thrive, giving us someone like Jarvis or Friday. And why I believe leveling the playground is a big step towards this future.
In closing, here’s my request. As you build or plan to build, I encourage you to pick at least one disability and ask; “what’s the day in a life of someone with this disability who uses/will use my product/service, and how can I make life a tad bit easier for them.” You don’t have to optimize for all. But you can optimize all the way for one.