DisabilityTech: Making the world more accessible for everyone

The DisabilityTech market is large and growing, with a projected value of $40B by 2030 - but what is disability tech, and why does it matter?

A woman sits in a an open, brightly lit space using a braille display while her guide dog rests at her feet

As the importance of accessibility and disability inclusion is increasingly recognized – in education, business, culture and everyday life – more and more companies are working to build innovative products and services that will improve the lives of people with disabilities. These solutions are often referred to, individually or in groups, as “disability tech.”

Given that 16% of the global population lives with a disability – and that people with disabilities and their allies control $13 trillion worth of disposable income – it’s no surprise that demand for disability tech is growing rapidly. And as more companies and innovators join the movement, a new market category has emerged.

Welcome to DisabilityTech

The DisabilityTech market includes not only solutions created specifically for folks with disabilities, but also brings in products and services that make the world more accessible for everyone, disabled and non-disabled. 

According to the Howe Innovation Center, there are more than 1,400 companies currently in the DisabilityTech space, and the market is projected to grow to $40 billion by 2030. That’s a tremendous opportunity – not just for consumers, but also for entrepreneurs and investors.

Disability tech: What’s happening now

The Howe Innovation Center defines DisabilityTech as “products and services that improve accessibility for people with and without disabilities – where accessibility encompasses ease of use, effectiveness, intuitiveness, and comfort.”

And there is so much incredible disability tech out there – some that you may not even realize that you’re using! (Lyft anyone?)

Here’s how the categories break down:

Who benefits from DisabilityTech

Thanks to the inclusive technology category within DisabilityTech, the short answer is that everyone benefits from disability tech. It’s called the “curb-cut effect,” an analogy for the way a ramp built into a curb – intended to offer a wheelchair user easy passage from the sidewalk to the street – can also be useful to other folks in the community. (Consider a parent pushing a stroller, a shopper using a grocery cart or a distracted walker who might not have noticed a sharp drop-off from the sidewalk. Each one of those people benefit from what was originally intended as a disability accommodation!)

And in order to understand why DisabilityTech matters so much, you have to understand how we’re defining “disability.” It’s a broad spectrum.

Defining “disability”

Disabilities can affect visual, auditory, mobility and/or neurocognitive experiences. And while some disabilities are visible, there are many that are non-apparent, situational, or temporary. For example, think of someone who is living with a chronic health condition (non-apparent), someone who is sensitive to sudden motion (situational) or someone who recently broke their arm (temporary).

A person might belong to one or more disability communities at any given time – because disabilities can evolve and change over time.

This is where the curb-cut effect comes in: every disability across the spectrum comes with its own unique set of barriers. But when we begin prioritizing accessibility, we’re helping to build a world where access doesn’t need to be one of those barriers.

Disability tech: What’s next

So, what’s next for the DisabilityTech market? There are new developments every day.

Ongoing advances in artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will likely prove to be game changers in areas such as communication, entertainment, navigation and medical care.

Having a defined, unified DisabilityTech market that considers all disability tech and inclusive technology offerings as a whole makes it possible for consumers, investors and entrepreneurs to assess opportunities, gaps and challenges across the entire landscape – and to connect, communicate and collaborate toward building a more accessible world.

Stay in the conversation

Innovation can’t happen without all of us. Together, we can solve real accessibility problems.

If you want more from-the-front-lines perspective on what’s happening across the DisabilityTech market, join the Howe Innovation Center community. You’ll get members-only access to resources and insight that’s not available anywhere else, including our white paper, Defining DisabilityTech: The Rise of Inclusive Innovation.