Consumers Lead the Way

As a visually impaired Veteran, I directly benefit from consumer and legislative protections and services for disabilities. Most of these required years of direct consumer activism, like the Rehabilitation Services Act and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Products like the iPhone and numerous apps increase my independence, but this required us as a market to demonstrate potential profitability and need. As a recipient of blind rehabilitation, Blind Specialists created and evolve the field to improve the quality of our lives. 

 

Today, bureaucratic processes and complex systems for declaring grievances  limit interactions with decision makers, silencing many voices.

This atmosphere closely resembles those conditions our fore-parents faced. Individuals like Jane Adams and Frances Perkins took a stance to advocate and establish systems of support for disenfranchised populations before any of the safety nets existed. Within the world of blindness, Richard Hoover, Russ Williams, and Warren Bledsoe devised the modern day orientation and mobility techniques before evidence-based interventions arose.

 

These empowering movements slowly changed as leaders and organizations shifted focus from social change to insurance covered modalities or federal reimbursable actions. Only through open dialog shall these trends reverse Below, two examples highlights how this appears today.

 

Central Blind Rehabilitation Center Technology Week
The Central Blind Rehab Center (CBRC) at the Edward Hines VA Medical Center conducted a week long pilot program. Inviting twelve alumni Veterans, each shared experiences integrating technology into daily life. The CBRC director recognized that consumers could provide more advance training for her staff.

Working cooperatively, the CBRC managed to receive valuable input on technologies that impact Veterans. Potentially, the lessons learned will influence not only blind rehabilitation within Hines, but throughout the entire VA system.

 

G3ICT
The Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) erects an international version of the ADA. Spearheading the technology segments, G3ICT facilitates conferences, summits, accessibility standards, and various other endeavors. The outcomes informs policy makers, corporations, end-users, and even rehabilitation trainers on how to execute adoption and execution of inclusive technology.

 

An example for this occurred in June 2014. The M-Enabling Summit captured the attention from industry leaders from Microsoft, Adobe, Verizon, AT&T, FCC, Apple Accessibility, and many developers for Android like VelaSense. Fostering collaboration with consumer advocacy groups, the AFB, RNIB, BVA, IAAP, Lighthouse, and many others directly interacted with developers through panel discussions, sidebars, and a multitude of other fashions. Really emphasizing this interactions, the RNIB representative during the closing panel stated that industry must reach out and utilize consumer groups, and consumer groups must aggressively engage with industry.

 

Taking Point
As these points illustrates, evolution only arises when all parties come together. With technology permeating all facets of physical life, international rights for disabilities, and changing rehabilitation paradigms, we consumers will witness an array of chances to participate. When you see your chances surface, grab ahold and share.