Disability driven innovation

Here’s something to think about the next time you reach out for the TV remote.

The remote control:
Have you operated a TV without one? Many a war has been waged in the modern home to claim access to the remote control. What is a convenience for us today was first invented, in 1955 by American engineer Eugene J. Polley, to help the elderly and people with limited mobility.

The telephone:
Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, was strongly involved with the deaf community having a wife and a mother that were both deaf. He taught people with a hearing impairment. His work with them gave him the idea of “electronic speech” that turned into the telephone.

The office scanner:
In 1976, American engineer Ray Kurzweil met a blind man who told me he’d like books to tell their stories. This inspired him to invent a reading machine to transcribe written text to blind people after meeting. He conceived a flatbed scanner and a text-to-speech synthesizer, two technologies that were unheard of at the time.

SMS text messages:
In 1984, Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen came up with the idea of SMS as a way to communicate with deaf people.

We owe many of the conveniences we enjoy today to the engineers who built accessible solutions.

We can also be that engineer 🙂

Solve for one. Extend to many.

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