Telstra predicts the future of accessible technology

Media Release, 16 August 2013

While recent innovations like touch screens and voice controls have changed the way we communicate, for people with disability these innovations can be the key to opening up a world of opportunity.

Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr Hugh Bradlow said changes in technology, particularly in the mobile space, are providing millions of Australians with disabilities additional benefits.

“Innovation and technology has always been important for people with disabilities. Innovations in areas like prostheses and cochlear implants have changed the lives of thousands of people,” Dr Bradlow said.

“In addition to these big innovations changes in the technology we all use has significant impacts for the lives of people with disabilities, including enabling more independence and opening up ways to participate in activities that once upon a time may have been difficult.”

Dr Bradlow said he believed five major areas of innovation currently being explored would benefit the disabled community most. These were: 

  1. Speech recognition: Typewriters are great for people with ten dexterous fingers, but can be a major barrier for others. This barrier is rapidly falling as devices become increasingly able to convert spoken words directly into text;
  2. Gesture recognition: Similarly, machines can recognize, interpret and act on our gestures from different areas of our bodies, making it easier for people who have difficulty in using a mouse or remote control to manipulate their computer or TV;
  3. New sensor technologies: Particularly biosensors can allow people to access health monitoring services remotely without the need to travel to a clinic. This has the potential to make regular appointments much more efficient and less invasive to a person’s life;
  4. Wearable computing will see the development of clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies. An example is a heads-up display with camera and microphone built into a pair of glasses,which will enable easy hands-free communication; and,
  5. Multi-screen communication will beam the small text from a mobile handset onto a large screen making it easier to read and interact with. For example by enlarging a website a person could more easily accurately click onto the link they want to follow.

“As showcased at the M-Enabling Summit this week in Sydney, technology can turn people’s lives around, increase their independence, open up social channels and positively change how they manage their own health outcomes,” Dr Bradlow said.

“For the more than four million people in Australia living with disability technology is a real game changer in terms of their interaction with the world.

“Telstra is committed to addressing the barriers people with disabilities face not only in terms of device accessibility but also by helping our customers acquire the skills, knowledge and the values to fully and safely participate in the online world,” added Dr Bradlow.