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Recent Findings from Assistive Technology in the Workplace Study

Over the past several years, A “plethora of new technology and dramatic advances in existing technology for people who are blind or have low vision” has emerged. Innovations in assistive technology (AT) continue to be launched each year, with additional advancements in their development. Examples include numerous head-mounted video magnifiers and multi-line braille tablets as well as AT meant to help with orientation, navigation, and wayfinding. Although many new offerings are introduced, “few are widely adopted or regularly used.” At the same time, digital skills are increasingly important at work, a trend that will likely continue. To be competitive in the job market, “it is imperative that they (employees) have digital skills, for which AT skills are prerequisite. To learn more about how people find out about novel AT, how they decide to try it, and general impressions, the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) at Mississippi State University addressed new technology in their most recent survey from the “AT in the Workplace Study.” Survey respondents were employed individuals who are blind or have low vision. Among the findings reported:
– Most appeared to be interested in novel AT if it meets certain requirements, including being highly functional and affordable.
– Learning new technology can take a considerable amount of time and energy. This could be worthwhile if it results in true improvement over existing function.
– Among those interested in adopting a novel AT, the two most common they preferred were orientation/navigation/wayfinding devices or apps and braille devices.
– For employers, results showed that in most cases, employees prefer traditional AT, like screen readers and magnifiers. Key to introducing new technology, if deemed beneficial, is to consider training needed.
More details, including specific data regarding survey results, are covered in the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Spring 2023 AccessWorld article on Interest In and Adoption of Novel AT: Findings from NRTC’s AT in the Workplace Study. For background on the overall study, read NRTC’s webpage on Project 1: Access Technology in the Workplace.