I don’t know of an archived, peer-reviewed list anywhere, but my colleague Richard Ladner has a nice slide deck he uses when lecturing about accessibility in history. I’ve adapted his deck and placed it on Google Slides.

Here’s the list in the deck:

  • Telephones (“devising methods of exhibiting the vibrations of sound optically, for use in teaching the deaf and dumb.”, Alexander Graham Bell)
  • Texting (Began as TTY for transmitting text over phone lines, evolved into SMS on cell phone lines.)
  • Modems (Robert H. Weitbrecht (deaf), invented modem to optimize TTY communication)
  • Machine vision (Motivated by Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which helped convert printed materials into machine readable text.)
  • Speech synthesis (Motivated by need for people without sight to read text.)
  • Speech recognition (Motivated by need for people without sight to enter text without hands.)
  • Captioning (First enabled deaf viewers to read audio.)
  • Screen readers (Allow non-visual access to computers. Motivated by Section 508 accessible technology requirements.)

That’s probably not complete, and the sources aren’t fully verified, but it’s a good place to start investigating the history.

Professor of programming + learning + design + justice at the University of Washington Information School. Trans; she/her. #BlackLivesMatter.

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