Partnering and the Development of Innovative Technology

A group of panelists including NFB Executive Director of Blindness Initiatives, Anil Lewis, sit on a stage at M-Enabling 2017.

Partnering and the Development of Innovative Technology

The National Federation of the Blind is committed to participating in forums like the M-Enabling Summit that foster independence through accessible technology and design.

The M-Enabling Summit has evolved over the years to become a showcase dedicated to promoting accessible and assistive technology for users of all ages and abilities. Specifically, it has demonstrated the power of mobile technology. The NFB has also long recognized the ability of mobile applications to enable blind and low-vision individuals to gain greater access to information. For instance, we developed NFB-NEWSLINE®, a free audio news service that offers access to more than 500 publications, weather alerts, and job listings. We also developed KNFB Reader, a mobile app that converts text to speech or text to Braille.

The M-Enabling Summit also brings together industry leaders, allowing us to establish robust, meaningful partnerships that result in the development of software and devices for the blind and low-vision community.

For example, through our Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design (BUILD) initiative, the NFB maintains a database of blind users who test and evaluate the accessibility of websites, home-use medical devices, home appliances, fitness equipment, and other products and services. This integration of feedback from real end-users has proven invaluable to our partners. In addition, our Strategic Nonvisual Accessibility partnership (SNAP) program works to ensure that websites, products, and services are nonvisually accessible by developing productive, on-going partnerships with organizations and assisting them with infusing accessibility into their corporate culture.

On June 19, as part of the 2019 M-Enabling Summit, I will be participating on a panel titled, “Self-Driving and Autonomous Mobility.” This session will examine the latest progress made by new forms of “anytime, anywhere” technology-based services. These include navigation solutions, ridesharing companies, robo-taxis, automated shuttle services, as well as self-driving cars or drones and what can be expected next.

Since our NFB Blind Driver Challenge, which demonstrated our ability to assist in the development of innovative technology that allowed a blind person to safely and independently drive an automobile on the Daytona International Speedway, the NFB has been actively seeking opportunities to partner in the development of automated vehicles. I am pleased to serve on this panel with representatives from our partners at Volkswagen Group of America and Uber. We will also be joined by a representative of the US Department of Transportation.

The M-Enabling Summit continues to evolve to serve as an incubator of innovative ideas and concepts that have the potential to expand opportunity and discovery for many of us.

If we, the nation’s blind, are to participate in the thoughtful development of technology, we must continue to develop meaningful, respectful partnerships with engineers and developers. With its theme of “Accessibility: Transforming Users’ Experience,” this year’s M-Enabling Summit will provide a platform for empowering developers to focus on driving innovation through partnering with consumers. That’s why we are excited to participate in and support the 2019 M-Enabling Summit June 17 to 19 in Washington, DC. Please join us.

—Anil Lewis