Skip to main content

Please wait while loading...

The voice-to-text feature on a smart device is just one of many ways technology makes life more accessible for people with disabilities and easier for everyone.

Imagine you’re in a crowded sports bar, trying to keep up with the big game on the TV, but there’s no way to hear the play-by-play over the din of the crowd. Instead, you can rely on closed captioning, the text running along the bottom of the screen, to catch all the details. In that moment, you’ve benefitted from technology developed originally for people with disabilities.

Closed captioning began as a way to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing more fully enjoy video, like broadcasts of the evening news, movies, or TV shows. But some of the most frequent users of closed captioning are people in sports bars, airports, and similar situations. In fact, closed captioning has become the expectation.

The ADA accelerated progress

We all benefited when closed captioning became mainstream, which can be credited to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in July 1990. The ADA banned discrimination based on disability in employment, government services, and public accommodations. And it laid out several fundamental goals for people with disabilities: equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

Closed captioning is just one way that people with disabilities and society in general benefited. Consider the benefits of accessibility and universal design we encounter every day:

  • Sidewalk cuts and ramps, designed for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, and useful for runners, delivery services, and people pushing strollers.
  • Audiobooks, an alternate form of reading for people who are blind or have low vision, and also great for someone who wants to enjoy a book while exercising or driving.
  • Voice-to-text technology, which anyone can use to send a quick text or transcribe business meetings.
  • Wider bathroom stalls, designed for people who use a wheelchair or other mobility device, and perfect for parents with strollers, travelers with luggage, or anyone needing a little extra room.

And technology is rapidly evolving accessibility for all of us; from simpler present-day improvements like digital voice assistants (Siri, Alexa) and internet-connected lightbulbs to the driverless cars that may be arriving in the near future.

It’s obvious that making our daily lives more accessible helps everyone, and there’s a healthy momentum around that. The healthcare industry – dedicated to all aspects of health and well-being – is committed to doing our part to improving accessibility. 

A few ways in which Elevance Health contributes to improving access

Including people with lived expertise: In an effort to help modernize the healthcare infrastructure and transform health and long-term services for older adults and people with disabilities, Elevance Health created the National Advisory Board (NAB) on Improving Healthcare Services for Older Adults and People with Disabilities. This group provides guidance and policy recommendations to make sure everyone has the services and supports they need to live successfully in their communities.

This diverse group of nonpartisan community advocates and healthcare professionals has produced numerous reports, including the Declaration for Independence, which details six foundational principles that guide everything from benefit design to access to technology.

Promoting meaningful, competitive, and integrated employment for people with disabilities: National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October helps dispel harmful myths and stereotypes by acknowledging and recognizing the contributions of workers with disabilities and highlighting inclusive employment policies and practices.

Elevance Health sponsors dozens of NDEAM activities across the country in which employers can connect with people with disabilities outside of the typical hiring context. It’s an opportunity to promote disability as a central component of diverse recruitment and foster a greater understanding of inclusive hiring and retention. People with disabilities are in turn exposed to new possibilities of employment, exciting career tracks, and future educational opportunities.

Creating climate resiliency by supporting communities: The hardships created when people are cut off from electricity and temperature moderation are compounded for people with chronic health conditions or disabilities who can’t charge or use ventilators, wheelchairs, or other medical equipment. Responding when disasters and emergencies strike is another way Elevance Health works with communities to help keep people safe and healthy. We make sure they can get prescriptions refilled and access food, and we work with community partners to distribute free batteries, chargers, fans, flashlights, fuel and more.

While the progress initiated by the ADA continues, there’s plenty of room for improvement. The evolution of accessibility contributes to better health and independence for all of us.

Related Stories