By identifying the next generation accessibility challenges, and by understanding these social trends and the impact of advanced technologies on people who are blind or visually impaired, we will have differentiated ALWL in the marketplace. An analysis of the data shows us that the need for the types of services that A Life Worth Living can offer, with proper funding, is great.
- Every 7 minutes, someone in the United States becomes blind or visually impaired.
- The facts speak for themselves:
The recent Statistics Canada Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS) reports that 4.4 million Canadians, or 14.3 percent of the population, reported an “activity limitation” in 2006.
PALS also showed that about 75% of all adult blind and visually impaired Canadians are unemployed, compared with 51% with other disabled groups. The key indicators for this startling statistic, point to two causes, which are inaccessible social networking and inaccessible workplace tools.
The demand for accessible technology will continue to skyrocket due to the rapid growth of mobile internet users, which is expected to grow by 191 percent from 2006 to 2011 to reach a billion people, according to IBM’s Institute for Business Value.
The internet delivery of government and commercial services does not necessarily mean that all citizens are equally able to access them. Those who have most to gain from e-services have least access to them, due to low income and/or inaccessible technology/human interfaces, which demonstrates the evidence of a continuing digital divide.
Policy makers, businesses and researchers have generally focused on developing assistive technology that addresses a specific need. The outcome is a proliferation of ad hoc and often expensive solutions that don’t adapt or scale to new situations. It also fosters the view that accessibility is a matter of philanthropy and compliance. The burden often ends up on the person (and his or her school, business and/or family) to purchase the required assistive technology.
Barriers to accessibility could grow as more systems like healthcare, banking and travel incorporate more technology. To address this trend, there is a growing need for a new, smarter approach to accessibility.
The Canadian Ministry of Community and Social Services in their 2008 Annual Report reported that there are 360,000 obligated organizations (public and private sector) that must comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act legislation – public sector beginning January 1, 2010, and private sector by January 1, 2012 (2 years later). As part of the customer service standard, employees of Ontario companies (there are millions of employees in the 360,000 obligated organization – IBM, Ford, Dell, HP, Indigo Books, Canadian Tire, etc.) must train their staff who interact with the public, and those who determine policies for the company, on the obligations of the accessibility regulations.
- Over 835,000 Canadians live with a visual impairment (Statistics Canada, 2006)
- Over 1.4 million American children who are primary caregivers;
- Over 21 million Americans with uncorrectable significant vision loss (U.S. national Health Interview Summary, 2006);
- Over 132 million considering 5 people in their support circles; and
- Over 120 million people with a visual impairment and their circles in Canada and the United States – billions when you consider our global scope.