The Canadian government is looking to make digital technology accessible to anyone who may want to use it.
The Accessible Technology Program launched yesterday, a new initiative that will see the federal government pledge $22.3 million to provide Canadians with disabilities more access to the digital tools they need to fully participate in society and have access to the high-salaried jobs the future will bring.
This new program will roll out over the next five years and co-fund innovative programs to develop new assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies. This could include screen readers, alternative keyboards, refreshable braille displays and different kinds of software or apps that allow those with disabilities to learn and become fluent with programs necessary to excel in the tech sector.
“Despite new assistive and adaptive technologies that empower persons with disabilities to participate in the workforce, we still see a technology gap in our communities,” explained Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development. “That’s why I’m pleased to launch the Accessible Technology Program. It will help us address this technology gap and give all Canadians an equal opportunity to obtain the well-paying middle-class jobs of today and tomorrow. Innovation is only successful when we can all participate.”
Private sector firms, not-for-profits and research institutions can all apply to be a part of the program. The government has recognized that the internet is an important gateway to developing and maintaining professional networks in a digital economy, but many Canadians cannot take advantage of the benefits. These barriers affect those with disabilities the most, as they already face some limitations when it comes to full integration into the workforce.
Mainstream technologies will often decrease in price and become more readily available as their software is made easier to produce and develop, but the same is not true for assistive and adaptive devices. They often increase in price because the devices must be specialized and customized for the user’s needs. The Accessible Technology Program looks to address some of these concerns and help those with disabilities have access to well-paying middle-class jobs.
This program will look to co-fund innovative projects that will help those with disabilities fulfill the same ambitions as other Canadians have: making a contribution to their community and economy.
There’s no indication as to what kinds of companies the government may partner with, but a good guess could be something like Toronto’s eSight, a wearable device that helps the legally blind see. The company has pledged that their somewhat expensive device will see its price tag lowered with government grants and other fundraising methods.