National Disability Employment Awareness Month: How mobile technology is transforming lives

By Jonathan Crowl

Mobile technology holds considerable promise for transforming the lives of everyone, particularly individuals with disabilities. However, for many years, that promise failed to translate into tangible change.

According to the Pew Research Center, of the 56 million disabled Americans, 58 percent have a smartphone, compared to 80 percent of the non-disabled American population. However, for people with disabilities in the modern workplace, mobile technology can serve as a much-needed equalizer.

In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it’s a perfect time to highlight the ways in which mobile technology is finally delivering on this potential to improve everyday life for disabled people in America and around the world. Here are four such innovations capable of giving disabled people a better quality of life in the workplace:

1. Hearing-impaired transcription services

Group and one-on-one meetings can be difficult settings for hearing-impaired workers. Speech processing for these individuals might come more slowly, and background noise can make it difficult to understand what other people are saying. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, one mobile solution, known as Ava, is designed to assist hearing-impaired employees. Through the microphones built into a smartphone or tablet, Ava processes conversations and transcribes those words into text for users to read.

If someone is speech-impaired as well as hearing-impaired, a keyboard is available. A user can type responses into Ava, and the system reads it out loud. The technology is transformative for workers with hearing impairments and is affordable for them to use as well.

Download Gartner report on managed mobility services

2. Refreshable braille display text

Most internet users read content every day. However, that’s not practical for blind individuals, who need an alternative to be able to consume that content.

Text-to-speech technology is available, but it can be slow to process the words on a web page, and the translation can be inaccurate. As Scientific American reports, refreshable braille displays are changing the game for blind users and making internet content more accessible than ever. Through the use of electromagnetic pins and translation software, the display converts words and images on a web page into a virtual braille, and when a finger runs over a row of braille characters, the pins refresh and write out the next line of text from the page.

As a result, blind individuals can read web content in much the same way as any other internet user.

3. Wearable gloves for touch-limited workers

Touchscreens and keyboards can be challenging for individuals with limited hand mobility. This can also be the case for vision-limited workers who can’t see the screens they’re using and can’t respond to prompts and actions the way other workers can.


The dbGLOVE addresses this challenge by using a wearable, mobile-connected glove to produce a tactile alphabet disabled individuals can use in the workplace. According to Getting Hired, these gloves are used by pinching or pressing specific parts of the glove that correspond to letters in the alphabet. The device is able to convert this activity into electronic data and input it into a computer or mobile device. Sensors in the gloves provide a tactile response that lets users know their information is being processed accurately.

4. Smart walking canes

A walking cane might not seem like a top candidate to be revolutionized by mobile technology, but that’s exactly what’s happening with the Dring Smart Cane. According to TechCrunch, with mobile technology, this smart walking cane can be a lifesaving safety device. If a user has fallen or become injured, the cane is able to call, text or email emergency contacts to let them know the user needs help, and possibly medical attention. The user can also press a button on the cane to send for help.

In the years to come, expect continued advancements in mobile technology to open the door further for new solutions that provide disabled workers with greater freedom, security and quality of life. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it’s important to remember the small yet important ways mobile innovation is bringing positive change to millions of workers and their employers.