Over the past few years, we’ve been seeing more and more products at CES meant to assist the elderly and disabled. In fact, last year was the first year we added an accessibility category to the official Best of CES awards — and the finalists in that category were indeed some of our favorite things we saw at the show. This year was no exception, with four finalists in the accessibility category, and a whole bunch of other products that we didn’t have room for on our shortlist.
When and how did accessibility tech come to be so prominent at the world’s biggest consumer tech show? And where is the technology headed from here? To help make sense of the bigger picture, I sat down with KR Liu, who was diagnosed with severe hearing loss at age three and later went on to head up sales and marketing with audio pioneer Doppler Labs. Most recently, she teamed up with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Grassley on the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which passed with almost unanimous bipartisan support.
In our all-too-brief talk, we delved into the technological advancements, of course, but also the social ones — the issue of accessibility tech ultimately isn’t just a question of what’s technically possible, but about diversity: Who is allowed in the drawing room? And for whom are we creating tech in the first place?
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