Electronic Curb Cuts Have Benefits for All

Can initiatives designed to improve the lives of individuals who are disabled have a carryover benefit to the rest of the population? Most definitely. Learn about how technological developments intended to help those affected by disabilities have led to large-scale societal improvements. Schools offering Electrical Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Improvements Benefit All

Most people are familiar with curb cuts, the graded inclines in sidewalks that allow people using devices with wheels to ascend from the street level. These functioning 'ramps' were initially designed to accommodate people in wheelchairs, but the design improvement has benefited a wide variety of others, including parents using strollers, shoppers pushing carts and individuals using walkers or other assistive devices.

Did you know that this principle is also being applied in the world of digital technologies? Electronic curb cuts are being implemented in computer, media and information contexts. And this practice of improving access is not new in electronic environments. In fact, instances of such technological innovations go back more than two centuries.

electronic curb cuts blind computer Internet disabled assistive technology

A Legacy of Transformation

There are many instances of advancements made with disabled people in mind that have yielded benefits for the greater good. For example, Pellegrino Turri developed one of the first working typewriters in 1808 to help his blind friend write more legibly. Some 70 years later, Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone in support of his teaching of deaf students. Both of these inventions, of course, became common in the everyday lives of the general population.

More recently, individuals concerned with improving the lives of people with disabilities have developed other staples of communication and personal leisure. For instance, many lit lovers enjoy listening to books on tape. What these people may not realize, though, is that the first such recording was developed in 1935 by the American Foundation for the Blind. In 1979, closed captioning for television programming was invented. Not only allowing the deaf to 'listen' to TV programs, this innovation also gives individuals in loud environments the opportunity to follow what what's happening on the screen.

Contemporary Curb Cuts

In the present day, many electronic curb cuts are being developed that relate to making computer and virtual technologies more accessible to those with disabilities. This is perhaps fitting given that disability awareness helped inform two staples of our everyday technological lives, email and text messaging. Vinton Cerf, a developer on ARPANET - an early Internet-like network developed in 1972 - used messages of text extensively to communicate with his deaf wife before incorporating them into that system.

Today electronic resources are incorporating a wide variety of hardware and software solutions to make technology more accessible to those with disabilities. For instance, people with low vision can use a screen enlarger to see type. Speech output tools give individuals the opportunity to hear what's written on Web pages and scanned documents. Voice output resources allow people to speak into a device that puts their words into type on a screen. And a wide variety of hands-free controls allow computer users to manipulate letters and objects onscreen, even if they have a disability.

Many of the tools commonly used among those with disabilities have potentially far-reaching purposes for the general public. Among these are more efficient means for note-taking and reading texts - uses already commonly practiced use among students. Time will likely reveal additional ways in which these technologies can enhance all of our lives, making investment in electronic curb cuts a valuable long-term pursuit.

Learn more about digital exclusion and efforts to address it.

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