2021 is set to be the year in which accessible tech takes off seriously. CNet has highlighted the huge range of inclusive tech set to make waves at CES 2021, with companies determined to start thinking about how technology can help those living with disabilities in more than just a simple manner. Backing up this wave of private-led innovation are changes in legislation that should, hopefully, make technology a little bit more accessible to people living with disabilities.

The Law

This push towards better assistive technology comes at a good time: the 30th anniversary of the Americans Disability Act has just passed, and with it, a new focus has come on its implementation. A reliable cerebral palsy site notes that the law has helped to protect those living with a disability, including cerebral palsy, through laws like ADA and the Assistive Technology Act of 1988. But how effective have these laws been? Given that the Biden administration will overhaul disability legislature – according to legal blog The Reg Review – it has been important one way or another. A key area of any changes will concern the technological link: how disability interacts with technology and important areas of concern – for example, privacy and data. 

Privacy and Disability

To fully function, assistive technology will often rely on the input of private medical data from users to provide the full amount of service possible to assist that person. As any legal expert or digital professional knows, this is an area of serious risk; HIPAA is one area that enacts strict and necessary regulations on assistive tech. GDPR, a European regulation that has had an impact the world over, maybe the key to help with companies getting serious about disability data protection; and it may inspire further on.

Holistic Design

Today, assistive tech manufacturers apply a holistic process to the design of their tools. Whereas the hardware may complete a simple function, the software will provide tools to help people living with a disability use their services safely and securely. This includes auto-form filling and an explanation of regulatory measures and waivers, and the provision of experts within the company to provide support.

Together, this is creating an environment in which new assistive tech is developed quickly and safely. It takes away the inherent risk of data-sharing and promotes good data practices.