It’s safe to say that there has never been as much technology and assistance available to disabled drivers as there is today. While there is definitely room for improvement (as there always is), we wanted to take a moment to focus on some of the biggest ways technology is improving the lives and mobility of those that need assistance driving.
- Vehicles Are Smarter Than Ever Before
With each new model year, our cars are doing more and more of the work. Some of the technologies that are now becoming standard in cars have been around for a while – things like back-up cameras and proximity sensors built into the bumper of the car make it easier for everyone to get around without knocking into things. Some of the newer technologies are approaching the world of science fiction.
You’ve probably seen advertised that new cars have the ability to take the wheel when things get perilous. There are now:
- Self-parking cars that reduce the amount of mobility needed to park.
- Forward-facing cameras equipped with artificial intelligence that can stop your car quicker than you can if something suddenly gets in the way.
- There are the little lights you see glowing in the side mirrors that tell you if there’s someone in your blind spot.
- Cars that can sense when you’re drifting out of your lane and will turn you back onto the right course.
All of these are great to have even for drivers who don’t have a disability and they are saving lives every day, but for drivers who can’t turn to check their blind spot or have visual or other impairments that can put them and others at risk, these features are crucial.
For those that need a vehicle that accommodates a wheelchair or scooter, ramped vehicles have become easier to use and to find in the marketplace. Vehicles with special driving formats, like hands-only driving, have also improved greatly over the years.
- There Are Apps Specifically Designed to Help Disabled Drivers
The old slogan “there’s an app for that” rings true for disabled drivers that need special assistance. Depending on your needs there are tons of apps that are specifically designed to assist in your mobility. These apps don’t necessarily always apply to just the driving aspect of mobility either. In fact, you can find apps that help you in every stage of the process, from deciding where you want to go to finding out where to park.
Wheelmate is an app that allows drivers to find handicapped spaces wherever they go. There is also, similarly named, Wheelmap that allows users to find and share handicap-accessible businesses and public areas around the world.
To make sure you have the proper permit to use those spaces, there is Dr. Handicap that facilitates your disability permit application, serving as the middleman between you and your local governing body if needed.
- Getting and Maintaining a Car is Easier Than Ever
One of the often-overlooked difficulties for disabled drivers is the actual process of searching for a car to buy. The reality is that people with disabilities struggle to navigate through standard websites because many are not accessible – from having flashing ads to being incompatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers. Living in an increasingly online world, anyone who is shopping for a car these days is probably going to go online at one stage in the process. This is where “web accessibility” comes into play.
The AI-powered solution accessiBe has a user interface dealerships can set up on their website to help those with disabilities navigate the site, ranging from audio-visual problems to motor impairments. All dealerships these days (or any business for that matter) are required to ensure their websites are accessible according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and accessiBe ensures this, in addition to WCAG compliance.
Government bodies that are involved with vehicle registration as well auto insurance companies are adopting these practices at a rapid pace as well, so between the public and private sector, it has never been easier to shop for a car online and to manage the paperwork needed to maintain one.
- Navigation Is Constantly Improving
Almost everyone who is driving age remembers the times when you would need to print out directions before leaving the house (or you would even use maps that you kept in your car… gasp!).
Those days have been gone for a while now with things like Google Maps telling us where to go. The technology hasn’t stopped improving, though. You can now find all types of business using these apps and their ability to respond to traffic and road closures has gotten better over the years.
With the ability to customize both in-car and smartphone navigation systems, users are able to get the most out of them. Voice technology is also the big improvement that has been around for a while but is finally starting to actually work. Now with voice recognition systems like Siri and Alexa, you can actually ask for directions instead of trying to follow the digital map in your console or on your phone.
- Self-Driving Cars Are Coming
Lastly, the much-hyped technology that has created lots of optimism and lots of doubt in recent years is the self-driving car. Believe it or not, scientists, engineers and programmers are getting very close with this technology and it’s already being used by companies like Tesla.
Soon enough, self-driving cars will be the safest option for everyone and they will become the new standard. Until then, we look forward to seeing the incremental ways that car and technology companies can improve the lives of those with a disability.