As More Cities Implement Smart Technology, Experts Call for Inclusivity

Cities are growing at the fastest rate in human history — and so are the expectations being placed on them. For most, increasingly prevalent smart city technology works as it should. But for those living with disabilities, it often completely misses the mark.

Take, for example, city kiosks meant to streamline the payment of parking tickets or service bills. Between their placement in underserved neighborhoods and the immediate access they offer to city services, they might seem like a fool-proof win for local government, but without features like audible output for blind individuals, a significant cross section of the community is immediately excluded.

Creating more inclusive and accessible cities was the focus for one panel of experts during a morning panel at South by Southwest in Austin March 8. Karen Tamley, commissioner of the Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, said she works closely with the city’s CIO to ensure technology solutions are inclusive in the first iteration.

A solution pushed out to the public, like the kiosks mentioned earlier, needs to take all potential users into account or risk costly retrofits, potential lawsuits, and excluding the disabled from access to the most basic services.

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