WASHINGTON, February 10, 2020 – Advocates for technology accessibility for the disabled communities boasted of new technologies like Xfinity X1 Eye Control devices and augmented reality while considering the varying needs across the disabled demographic on Monday. The panel convened at an event hosted by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
The moderator asked what accessibility means for the 48 million people with disabilities. Customer Experience Lead at Comcast Joel Moffatt said accessibility was a “measure of how inclusive” the products and experiences are for customers. He said that Comcast does not increase charges for accessibility, rather, it strives to build accessibility into all its products.
Moffatt said Comcast attempts “truly inclusive experiences” in its technology design, including difference approaches for people with disabilities.
Recently, Comcast released the Xfinity X1 Eye Control, a technology that tracks eye movement, allowing people with the inability to use hand-held devices use their eyes to select options. For example, a user could use eye movement or blinking to change the channel on the television. Moffatt described it as an “accessible remote control.”
Accessibility should be a broad definition, said Debra Berlyn, Consumer Policy Solutions president. Berlyn said that for the aging generation, technology accessibility means “ease of use.”
Helping people adopt the technologies available that allow them to be independent can be a challenge. Berlyn said the “tools are there,” and it is crucial to help individuals see the value in the technologies offered.
Berlyn expressed excitement at the innovative technologies she saw at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas this past January. She said she hopes some of these technologies, like augmented reality and haptic devices, can be combined for the aging community.
To Clark Rachfal, the director of advocacy and government affairs at the American Council of the Blind, just because a technology complies with regulatory requirements, does not necessary means it is “useable.”
“In a lot of cases, this could be life or death,” said Rachfal.
Federal Communications Commission Deputy Bureau Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s Disability Rights Diane Burstein considers absence of awareness as a main barrier to accessible technologies. She said the FCC provides several programs to help, but many people do not know about them. For example, the FCC has engaged with helping people access video relay service, said Burstein.
In looking towards the forthcoming 5G deployment and smart homes, Clark said these technologies need to be accessible for the disabled.
Berlyn urged the federal government to endorse a federal privacy law. She said that a pressing priority for the aging generation is privacy.