How 5G and IoT technology will improve accessibility

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This summer, Verizon had the privilege of hosting DeafBlind Citizens in Action (DBCA) at our Technology and Policy Center in Washington, DC. It was a great opportunity to learn from this community and to explore how next generation networks can power technology solutions that will benefit the community.

DBCA is a non-profit advocacy organization working globally to expand awareness of deafblind concerns and advocates for the deafblind community. Deafblindness is the combined loss of vision and hearing, and while not a very common disability, it profoundly impacts an individual’s daily life.  DBCA’s core values – perseverance, initiative, humility, excellence, strength, and diversity – tell you much about what makes this group tick. A key element of DBCA is the work the organization does to train deafblind individuals to be active participants in the civic life of their home communities through its Deafblind Young Adults in Action (DBYAA) summer program. This program brings together aspiring young deafblind leaders from across the nation, of every political stripe and academic inclination, to participate in a hands-on examination of policymaking. DBCA, the deafblind community at large, and the mentees benefit from DBYAA.

This year, with the support of the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, the Helen Keller National Center, and HumanWare, DBCA convened a Summer Leadership Program. During a busy week, DBCA members studied, attended workshops, and engaged with policymakers, including Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

We were pleased to host DBCA’s Leadership and Advocacy Forum, led by their Vice President George Stern. During the event, we discussed how 5G and the Internet of Things will create new and exciting opportunities for accessibility. Autonomous driving, for instance, will be transformational, giving people with disabilities new levels of personal and professional freedom, a critical issue given the patchwork of paratransit options currently available.  Studies indicate use of autonomous vehicles could save $19 billion a year from missed medical appointments alone. Similarly, connected appliances that automate everyday tasks will be a boon to people who have physical impairments that can make household work difficult or impossible. Devices designed for the unique needs of deafblind individuals were also on display, including the HumanWare BrailleNote Touch. Technology has long been a critical tool for inclusion. The coming iterations, including 5G and IoT, will not only continue that trend, but could move from merely critical to transformative.

Verizon appreciates the opportunity to take part in the Forum, and for the collaboration with DBCA, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the American Printing House for the Blind. We’re always looking for opportunities to support our important stakeholders in the disability community and to benefit from their unique perspectives. We are better because of the insights they share and are committed to delivering next generation networks that will enable the next generation of accessible technology. Doing so will help ensure the digital future is bright for everyone.

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