The Urgent Need for Multifamily Housing Operators to Provide Accessible Digital Services
Inclusion is rapidly becoming a much-discussed facet of modern technology. Though the issue – and all of the historical events surrounding it – is a complex and diverse one, a simple fact remains: the world is moving forward and evolving itself to accommodate people with disabilities – and, rightfully so. There are approximately 61 million people with disabilities in the United States alone, and each of them deserves equal access to the Internet and all of the convenience that it affords us.
For this reason, many multifamily operators have invested in ADA-compliant digital platforms, while others are still wondering if it’s worth the extra cost. Well, if 2020’s historic global event doesn’t answer this question, we aren’t sure what would. The pandemic has forced millions of Americans to consider life without in-person communication and conveniences – a reality that one billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, must confront every day, no matter what’s going on within current events.
There are many types of disabilities, including but not limited to, physical, cognitive, sensory, and learning impairments, as well as mental health conditions, chronic illnesses or pain, and autism spectrum disorders. Because of the unique conditions those with disabilities experience, they face considerable inequities within society and must be represented in the fight for fair housing opportunities, as much as Internet accessibility.
Though nothing can parallel the experience of living with a disability, COVID-19 has restricted our world in ways that mimic the hurdles disabled people face throughout their lives. Limited access, complicated logistics, and long bouts of self-isolation are only a few common scenarios that Americans with disabilities experience daily. Yet, with many states now considering a second wave of mandated lockdowns, it’s safe to say that everyone is getting a better feel for limited mobility and access.
COVID-19 has jolted entire industries into action, so that citizens may enjoy some semblance of normal life during the pandemic. Numerous jobs across the country have become remote, sick people are being asked to stay at home without a doctor’s note, and telemedicine has received millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. Federal Government. Considering that these accommodations mirror those often requested by Americans with disabilities, it’s crucial that we not forget the urgency of equal access once these pandemic-related obstacles begin to subside.
As we move forward with contactless solutions, Americans will increasingly rely upon existing technology to complete simple tasks, like picking up groceries, shopping for clothes, and even renting an apartment. With the demand for these types of solutions increasing, the mad rush towards transactional technology, catered to consumers’ everyday needs, has officially begun.
By 2021, Gartner predicts that 30 percent of manufacturers will have digital application teams creating new, business-relevant apps that can link partners, vendors, and consumers in a contactless manner. To fulfill these needs, it’s estimated that the number of part-time developers, business analysts, and data scientists worldwide will double from 6.8 million to 13.6 million by the middle of the decade.
Although the technology industry is revered for its many problem-solving innovations, the unmet needs of those with disabilities must be addressed with more in-depth technological tools designed to accommodate everyone. Fortunately for these underserved communities, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed us to the point of realization: everyone needs access to the kinds of tools that can not only help us accomplish our goals – like ordering delivery from your favorite restaurant – but also do so in a contactless manner.
Chatbots, digital applications, and other contactless solutions provide your end-user with a virtual experience that’s as seamless as any face-to-face interaction. When equipped with an artificial intelligence backbone and the appropriate, ADA-compliant software, these tech tools are especially accessible to vulnerable populations, who should not be excluded from utilizing online resources— which many now consider a basic human right.
The pandemic has illustrated many of America’s longstanding societal inequities, including those experienced by our disabled population. A lack of equal access has complicated life for this demographic for quite some time. However, the American public is finally beginning to understand the true magnitude of this issue, since they are now experiencing it in some degree themselves. If we hope to achieve true digital equity for our neighbors with disabilities, we must continue to look to contactless workflows as the ultimate technological solution, now and always.
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