As of now, Singapore has no regulations that require the digital assets of governmental agencies and corporations to be accessible to persons with disabilities. If this continues, what we will see is a widening gulf between those privileged enough to access and be enabled by emerging tech, and the vulnerable groups who risk breeding an aversion to emerging tech, through a lack of access to it.
Every year on December 3, we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and, in commemoration of this year’s theme – “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” – I would like to call on governmental bodies across Asia not to be awestruck by emerging technologies, but to look at tech critically to see how it may empower vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities.
One way to do so is to have more disability representation creating technology, be it as persons with disabilities or persons affected by disabilities, which include family members, friends, and so on.
A shining example of this is Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, whose introduction as chief executive coincided with the setting up of an in-house Inclusive Design Division, making the Xbox playable with one hand, introducing real-time captioning on Powerpoint, making OneNote accessible to those with dyslexia, developing a 3D soundscape for blind navigation as well as Hearing AI Seeing AI.
Nadella, in his biography Hit Refresh, shares how having Zain, a son with cerebral palsy and legally blind, allowed him to see the value in making products accessible to persons with special needs.