Close up of man with hearing aid in his ear looking down

Wireless Tech & Apps for People Living with Disabilities

Accessibility, Trending Tech

Hearing, vision, mobility, dexterity, and cognitive disabilities impact many Americans. According to the CDC, more than 61 million adults are living with a disability in the U.S.—that is 1 in 4 Americans. And whether or not you currently live with a disability or know someone with a disability, we are likely to develop a disability as we get older. According to the ADA National Network, 30% of Americans age 65 and older have a disability and more than 50% of Americans age 75 and older have a disability.

Wireless technology is constantly innovating to help make life easier for all Americans, and the fifth generation of wireless (5G) is bringing even more possibilities. Faster speeds and lower latency is revolutionizing the meaning of wireless connectivity. It helps those living with a disability to connect in new and meaningful ways. From smart homes and tablets to apps and built-in features, accessible wireless tech can help create meaningful opportunities for everyone:

  1. Built-in Mobile Features: Real-Time Text (RTT) is available as a built-in feature on most mobile devices. RTT can help you transmit text messages instantly in the natural cadence of a conversation, similar to the instant exchange of information speaking on the phone. These texts can be sent without pressing the “send” button and can be seen by the recipient in real-time. RTT features and resources are available from most mobile carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and more.
  2. Innovations in Advanced Geo-location: New 5G networks are supporting enhanced geo-location and navigation services for people who are blind or have low vision, making it easier to navigate. Smart glasses like Aira Horizon leverage cutting-edge wireless technology to provide instant human assistance to interpret visual information. Apps like Speechify, TextGrabber, and KNFB Reader can help you read printed text with your smartphone.
  3. Smart Home Technologies: According to the National Library of Medicine, “5G real-time services allow people with disabilities to live independently in connected smart homes since 5G networks transmit a significant amount of data at very high speeds. Neural networks can improve home automation, comfort, security, and health care for people with disabilities in their smart homes.”

    Smart home technology can be controlled by helpful voice-assisted tech and smart speakers, including Google Home, Apple HomePod Mini, or Amazon Echo. Smart displays can help take smart speakers up a notch by not only telling, but displaying the information. Smart displays like Lenovo Smart Displays are hands-free wireless tech that can help you check local news and weather, control your smart home devices, and navigate apps by the sound of your voice. Eye-controlled communication devices such as TD Pilot can help individuals control their tablets through eye movements without the use of touch or voice. Apps like Open Sesame can help track head movement to unlock a smartphone, make calls, and more.

In addition to these innovations, lower wireless costs have made wireless technology more accessible than ever. The ACTwireless community advocates for access to the best wireless possible for all Americans, including individuals living with disabilities. To continue to support these advances, we need to maintain a positive policy environment for wireless access to thrive. This includes creating a spectrum pipeline that will continue to support the rapid deployment of networks. Learn more about accessible wireless tech and join ACTwireless to stay up-to-date on wireless policies that matter to you the most.