For People With Disabilities, New Technology Can Be Life Changing

For most of us, eye tracking technology sounds interesting. But it’s not life changing. Eye tracking allows users to move a cursor around a computer or mobile device simply by moving your eyes and head.

Oded Ben Dov initially used eye tracking technology to develop a video game that he showed off on Israeli TV. The next day, he says, he got a phone call from a man who told him: “I can’t move my hands or legs. Can you make me a smartphone I could use?”

That’s when Ben Dov realized that his eye tracking technology could change lives.

“For me, that was a calling to put my skills and knowledge to good use.” Ben Dov went on to found Sesame Enable, a company that sells smartphones for people who can’t use their hands.

Sesame Enable, which is based in Israel, was in Mountain View, Calif., this week for Google I/O, the annual conference for developers who make products using Google technologies. Sesame Enable is getting support from Google.org — the company’s charitable arm.

Eve Andersson, who leads accessibility across Google, says Google.org has given out $20 million to organizations that use technology to help people with disabilities. She says a lot of the technology that ends up helping people with disabilities comes out of well-designed technology aimed at all consumers.

“We shouldn’t need to know they have a disability,” Andersson says. “It should just work for them.”

But taking existing technology and making it useful for a disabled person often does require new designs. Tomglobal.org — a nonprofit that brings together technologists who want to solve problems for people with disabilities, gets financial support from Google.org.

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