In the past, there have been long periods of time where little changed for people with motion disabilities. Years might go by without any major new ideas or innovations that could help wheelchair users lead easier, healthier, and more independent lives. Now, however, that’s all begun to change. I'm happy to report that as technology experiences rapid improvements from one year to the next, wheelchair users are seeing clear and significant benefits.
Below is a list of some of the most exciting trends you'll see this year in the accessibility industry:
Trend #1: Apps to Enhance Independence
The app market has expanded exponentially over the past few years. To think, a mere decade ago smartphones barely even existed, and now there's an app for nearly everything! Luckily, a lot of app creators have their sights set on tools, maps, and platforms that will make life easier for those with mobility issues, allowing us to live more active and independent lives.
Some of my favorite up-and-coming apps are paired with fitness-tracking devices designed specifically for wheelchair users. Fitness trackers have become very popular in the last couple years, and I'm glad to see new and established brands recognizing that tracking the fitness of a wheelchair user requires distinct algorithms.
Additionally, a fair amount of apps are popping up that make it easier for wheelchair users to get around. They accomplish this by labeling how accessible certain buildings, businesses, and attractions are.
At the end of this article, you can find a link to Scootaround’s 2018 New Mobility Technology Guide, which provides detailed information about all these apps, as well as other interesting and beneficial tools for people with mobility issues.
Trend #2: A Multi-faceted Definition of Accessibility
One thing I'm noticing, particularly on a lot of apps and websites, is a promising trend that involves understanding the meaning of the word “accessibility.” A number of apps designed to help wheelchair users are recognizing that the word “accessible” means something different to everyone. Wheelchair users are not one-size-fits-all, and my specific mobility requirements and limitations are likely to be different from yours.
In fact, this improved and multi-faceted definition of “accessible” forms the entire premise of some apps on the market now, which break down the accessibility of a place by discussing different features – for example, entryway or restroom specifics. I think such apps are poised to greatly enhance the travel experiences of anyone with mobility difficulties, since it will allow us to create plans and itineraries to match our individual accessibility needs.
Trend #3: Smarter Tech for an Easier Life
While improvement in machinery has been steady (I like to use the gradual evolution of wheelchairs to powerchairs as an example), I think 2018 is the year in which so-called “smart” technology will become widespread in the accessibility industry. Its integration into wheelchairs and complementary devices has so much beneficial potential!
Scootaround’s 2018 Guide to New Mobility Technology for Active Lifestyles has more detail about smart tech and how it allows individuals with physical motion disabilities to interact with their iOS and Android devices, computers, and smart home systems hands-free. The guide also has information on smart gadgets that collect your wheelchair mobility metrics and devices that keep an eye out for poor posture when you're in your wheelchair. This technology will help improve the lives of wheelchair users, and make it easier for us to be healthy and adventurous.
Trend #4: More Wheelchairs Designed for Adventurers
Far from modest improvements, I've seen leaps and bounds in the quality of wheelchairs designed for people like me – explorers who love to go on adventures, travel the world, and live active lifestyles.
As far as a revolutionary upgrade to a more standard powerchair, this year has me incredibly excited about the WHILL Model Ci. Featuring omni-wheels for a tight turning radius, the Model Ci has a smaller footprint than traditional mobility scooters. I'm impressed with its 10-mile range, electromagnetic brakes, top speed of 5 mph, and its ability to master 2'' obstacles and 10-degree inclines. And its built-in USB charger for your mobile devices is just icing on the cake.
However, the biggest reason I've decided to highlight the WHILL Model Ci is that it’s a superb example of a trend I was talking about earlier. I've already given examples of useful devices that include smart technology, but the WHILL Model Ci actually integrates smart technology itself! It comes with apps that monitor the health of your Model Ci and even allows you to drive it and lock it remotely. The chair even includes its own diagnostic capabilities, which make repairs and maintenance that much simpler.
There is other noteworthy tech present in the WHILL Model Ci as well, including audible messages that notify you of those dreaded operational errors, allowing you to avoid hazards and drive safely with greater peace of mind. Its anti-sway systems are also impressive, helping you to keep the chair straight when you're driving on side slopes.
In short, I think 2018 will be a pretty exciting year for accessibility. I predict we'll see greater use of independence-enhancing apps within the worldwide community of wheelchair users, and I think that growing recognition of the individual nature of the word “accessibility” will steer new innovators and policymakers in the right direction. My final prediction is that 2018 will be the beginning of an incredible boom with regard to smart technology in wheelchairs and accompanying devices.
As previously mentioned, Scootaround has posted their 2018 Guide to New Mobility Technology for Active Lifestyles. If you're like me and have some type of mobility issue, this handy guide will go into detail about a variety of different technologies and how they can help people like you and me. The guide covers everything you need to know about mobility trends in 2018, including new apps for navigating and monitoring your health, useful websites, cutting-edge wheelchair designs, cool supplemental devices, and other highly-promising technologies to watch for in the coming years. If you've been intrigued by the general trends I've described here, download Scootaround’s 2018 Guide to New Mobility Technology using the link below:
Cory Lee is a wheelchair user, travel addict, and accessible travel writer.
On his blog, Curb Free with Cory Lee, he hopes to inspire others to roll out of their comfort zones and see all the beauty our world has to offer.
Images Used in This Article
Wheelmap App Image courtesy of Wheelmap.org