When technology discriminates: “We are 10% of the population of Spain and we feel forgotten”

When technology discriminates: “We are 10% of the population of Spain and we feel forgotten”

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Pay without contact, biometric security, folding screens, artificial intelligence that responds to you, touch screens… These are some of the trends and devices that have been presented in recent days at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “But it is impossible for me to press a small button,” answers Jesús Hernández-Galán. “Or a blind person with POS (payment terminals) without buttons does not know how much he is paying because he does not make sounds,” he adds. “What do we do? “10% of the Spanish population feel forgotten by technology,” he warns.

These are the words of the Director of Accessibility and Innovation of Fundación ONCE who has brought the debate on inclusive technology to this technological event. “Things are being done well, but there is still a lot of progress to be made,” he says.

In Spain, 4.38 million people claim to live with some disability, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) in its evaluation Survey of Disability, Personal Autonomy and Dependency Situations (AGE) with data from 2020. In this work, The Spanish statistics agency also asks respondents about

the possible difficulties with new information and communication technologies (ICT). In this sense, 39.4% of people with disabilities aged 6 and over were conditioned to access them. By sex, 41.1% of women, compared to 37.0% of men. This disability-motivated difficulty increased with age; It affected 29.9% of people aged 6 to 44, compared to 57.6% of those aged 80 and over. “We are certifying mobile phones and electronic devices from the biggest names in the sector and progress is being made,” explains Hernández-Galán. “Apple is doing well, Microsoft too, Samsung, LG…” she adds.

However, the director of Accessibility and Innovation of the ONCE Foundation remembers that new technologies are appearing that do not think of everyone. “Tomorrow your life can change and you can be one more of that 10% of the population,” he warns. And they are not despite being a European obligation transposed into Spanish legislation last year. “This regulation requires that technologies be accessible.”

Specifically, the main objectives of this directive are to harmonize the accessibility requirements for certain products and services, in search of the proper functioning of the internal market of the European Union. Through the approximation of the legal, regulatory and administrative provisions of the Member States in this regard, we want to contribute to eliminating and avoiding existing obstacles in this area.

But reality is not as tight as the regulations indicate. “In some cases we are going backwards,” he details. “I have mobility problems in my hands and if a system asks me for facial recognition, it is very difficult for me to be able to do it alone.”

To this end, the ONCE Foundation together with the Austrian Johannes Kepler University of Linz and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) are working on the deployment of the European Accessible UE program, launched in December 2022, with which they seek to break down barriers and make the more accessible technology.

Since its creation, this program has worked on the development of artificial intelligence as a help and support tool. In these days of MWC, Hernández-Galán has presented the projects of this strategy at the Spain Pavilion and at the 4YFN emerging business event, which is celebrating its decade of existence this year. With Gossa, AI is used to assess the soft skills of people with intellectual disabilities; AccessRobots seeks to facilitate the mobility of people with disabilities in complex commercial spaces, and with Walkerpisa various elements are being integrated so that they can move safely through cities.

A technology for people with disabilities and made with people with disabilities. «We have about 50 people in 11 projects with experts in accessibility, architecture, urban planning, mobility, transportation, technology… And more than half of us have some disability,” he responds.

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