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Let the Good Times Roll: Best Accessibility Inventions from 2023

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
01/05/24  10:00 AM PST
New Year's Resolution

Happy 2024 to you all! I don’t know how you rang in the New Year—if you are excited for what is to come, fearful, at peace, ready or still hiding under the covers. However you are feeling about this new season, I have some thoughts for you about the not-so-distant past.

Time Magazine recently released “The Best Inventions of 2023.” I am always wary of these kinds of lists, because who gets to decide what’s best and also what does “best” even mean? But I am also a sucker for the tally, because it reveals what the culture values enough to put money, time, and creativity into developing.

Most of this list is what you would expect: lots of AI and bots and also some pretty cool green energy inventions that I hope keep the ball rolling in the right direction to mitigate the climate crisis. However, as the mother to a son with cerebral palsy, my focus was the recent advances in accessibility. If we are talking about the future and bettering the world we are sending our children into, then my highest priority is equality for people of all abilities.

Here’s what I noticed about the items under the umbrella of accessibility. As predicted, they cover the gamut of needs. There were inventions for senior citizens and the hearing and visually-impaired and those like my kid who use mobility devices. But what surprised me was the wide array of desires that inventions met. Braille Legos for the visually-impaired gave the opportunity for children to play. A lipstick holder by Lancome improved dexterity so the wearer could do what we all do: gleefully spend too much money at Sephora. A wearable backpack with wrist and ankle attachments recreated vibrations on the skin so that the hearing-impaired could experience the magic of a live concert. A new wheelchair/walker used the technology developed for Steadicams in the film industry to create a seamless transition from sitting to standing. There was so much more fun to be had than expected with these inventions. This list encompasses what we all want: to move about the world freely, to feel beautiful, to play.

For a very long time, there was little to no consideration of those with different needs. It was an invisible population. Then, when society began to acknowledge its community with diverse needs, the inventions and improvements focused on the basics: transportation, feeding, education. It was a necessary foundation, yes, but it was not enough. It hasn’t been enough for decades. What we are seeing now is the next level up in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We are moving beyond the physiological and safety concerns towards an emphasis on love and belonging for those who deserve so much more than a wheelchair-accessible curb and extended time in school.

This list, perhaps more than any other kind of reflection over the last year or resolution for 2024, gives me hope that the world is moving in the right direction for people like my son—people who want to play, to pursue beauty, to listen to good music just like everyone else. Finally. Finally.


child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.

Author of the middle-grade novels:















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