Letter from the editor: Tech’s mobility omission

A pedestrian walks past two Bird dockless scooters, one laying on its side, in the middle of a sidewalk in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, California, July 10, 2018. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Mobility is a term the tech community has co-opted to mean everything from transit-as-a-service to autonomous vehicles to what Ford CEO Jim Hackett called “a ‘catch-all’ phrase encompassing all non-traditional businesses.”

At its core, mobility is about offering greater accessibility and convenience to more people. But too often that isn’t the case.

After we published our story about Lime and Bird’s e-scooter expansion plans in Canada, a reader pointed me to a Twitter thread highlighting concerns over what abandoned dockless scooters mean for wheelchair users.

“You are literally sticking up walls all over the city that wheelchair users can’t get past. And what’s worse is they aren’t even predictable walls,” wrote Twitter user @mssinenomine.

These omissions arise when not all users are included—or even considered, and when businesses treat accessibility as an afterthought or as a costly regulatory obligation. With almost a quarter of Canadians living with disabilities, the tech ecosystem—in both product development and hiring, has overlooked the massive market opportunity that comes from universal design.

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