By Lee Dong Won
The purpose of innovation is to create value for businesses but importantly, improve the life of the end user of a product. One of the challenges product designers encounter is ensuring products are accessible and easy to use by everyone including the disabled, elderly and other persons with special needs.
Technology has made our lives more convenient and productive but not everyone is able to enjoy the benefits, more so, those with physical and other limitations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) roughly 16 per cent of the global population experience a significant form of disability. Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities tend to experience stigma and discrimination due to their condition. Yet they too need to be considered when designing products.
Accessibility refers to whether a product is usable by everyone including persons suffering some form of disability. Product designers should therefore strive to accommodate the broadest range of users possible. Accessibility issues include blindness, immobility, hearing difficulties and cognitive impairments to name a few. Accessibility is different from usability which refers to the effectiveness or efficiency of a product.
The best customer experience revolves around products and services that improve every user’s daily life and wellbeing. Product innovation should be inspired by the desire to make the world a better place. Hence, accessibility features such as voice recognition, voice instruction and motion-detecting sensors are becoming an integral part of a wide range of products. Also known as assistive technologies, such features help people perform tasks they would otherwise be incapable of thereby living healthy, productive and dignified lives.
A good example is an advanced TV model that comes with features such as Google’s TalkBack that help people who are blind to control their devices by reading their screens out aloud. Color and font adjustment features also make the screen easier to read. For viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, smart TVs have a caption and mono-audio feature that allows them to watch their favorite shows with ease. An innovation known as Touch Assistant helps those who have difficulty using physical buttons to control the device.
These are among the innovations that companies, including LG Electronics, are pursuing as part of inclusive innovation, involving the development of technologies that have life-changing benefits. This is also critical to the realization of the global Sustainable Development Goals on building inclusive societies.
Developing products and services that are convenient for all is part of the LG innovation mantra and commitment to sustainability. As a company, our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) vision revolves around technology that helps people meet some of the most pressing problems while making a positive difference for people and the planet. This includes providing accessible products to our customers and ensuring people of all abilities enjoy the full benefits and convenience of our products.
As part of our ESG initiatives around human rights, LG is committed to making its home appliances more accessible to those with physical impairments. For example, one of our innovative washing machines has audio instructions and braille overlays. This makes it easier for customers with visual challenges to use the product simply by following the audio instructions or selecting the correct buttons using braille.
Under our Better Life Plan 2030, we aim to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from product manufacturing by 50 per cent compared to 2017 levels. Further we plan to have accessibility features in all our products and provide a voice instruction manual and sign language video manual for every LG product by 2030.
(Lee Dong Won is the MD of LG Electronics East Africa).