As it does every year, CES 2015 has come and gone like clockwork. Offering a tantalizing taste of upcoming consumer devices that maybe seen over the following year, and a brief look into a future of devices that may never see the light of day.
Consumers have come to expect a lineup of thinner TVs, more powerful cellphones, and an extreme overuse of the catch phrase of the year. This year was no exception, with the ever growing variety of drones, wearables, and the "Internet of things".
Surprisingly, accessibility devices got some spotlight this year with the awesome exoskeleton from Ekso, which is giving paraplegics the ability to walk. Both BMW and Intel showed off innovations in the area of accessibility for the blind, such as a bodysuit with proximity sensors to alert the wearer where and how far objects are.
We can't forget self driving cars of course. Google has been the first to make inroads in this area, and wanted to show the world how these vehicles could be of great use for the disabled community. To show off the safety and accessibility of their vehicles, they released a video in 2012 of a blind man taking a ride in the drivers seat of one of their street mapping cars.
Since then they, and many other auto manufacturers, have released prototypes showing how they see the future of self driving vehicles will look. If Google's and BMW's prototypes are to be any indication of the future however, it remains pretty bleak for those with mobility disabilities. It would go to reason, that if a company is trying to market towards a specific demographic, that they would at least create prototypes that included people of that demographic.
In recent years, making a vehicle wheelchair accessible required thousands of additional dollars for purchase and installation of adaptations. Some manufacturers like Chrysler or Toyota have made specialty vehicles that squat, or have a motorized ramp, but cost upwards of $25,000-$35,000 or more. In my own area, there are no taxi companies with wheelchair accessible vehicles, and specialty medical transportation can cost $25 just to pull up to the door.
With an ever-increasing population of veterans returning with life changing injuries, self driving manufacturers are going to need to realize that the disability community is no longer a minority percentage. It is time to make these vehicles not only more affordable – since most people with disabilities are likely on government assisted income – but also more inclusively accessible.
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