We all know that that legal tech frees up time and increasingly removes the manual legwork from routine tasks. Legal tech therefore saves time for the able bodied and disabled alike, providing of course that accessibility is built in to new legal tech software products. However, for those who have chronic health problems, these efficiencies are particularly welcome as they allow them to save their energy and focus on using their higher level skills instead.
Research by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has found that, "Only 3% of solicitors in England and Wales declared they had a disability in 2017, compared to 10% of the working age population." Accessible legal tech paired with tech developed to aid specific disabilities will hopefully succeed in further opening up the legal profession.
How disability has driven technological change
The imperative for technological change to aid the disabled clearly stands on its own merits. If we needed yet another reason to be excited about the possibilities, we could see that technology saves time for everybody, and technology designed for aiding disabled people often goes mass market and benefits everybody too.
Have you ever intuitively pinched your screen to zoom? Used a three finger swipe to navigate between windows? Convenient gesture recognition is now a common feature in smartphones, tablets, touchscreens and trackpads alike. However, it was only inspired when one of the now head engineers at Fingerworks, Wayne Westerman, suffered temporary tendonitis and began to experiment in lower pressure input methods.
Similarly, we may now take for granted a standardised Qwerty keyboard, but its development depended upon innovation out of necessity. Way back in early nineteenth century Italy, inventor Pellegrino Turri developed the first mechanical typing machine in order to help his close friend continue to write letters and correspond with him despite her sight loss. The keys had raised characters, and so over time his friend could learn their positioning (which later became standardised) and write fluently.
Disability proved the original impetus in the development of self-driving vehicles, Segways, and wearable tech as well as text-to-speech and speech-to-text software. Countless examples abound, but the pattern is clear. All of these innovations were created to benefit the disabled, and now benefit everyone.
Clearly when technology is built with accessibility in mind, it ends up being beneficial to all.