Cloud Cover: What Is This Cloud Computing?

Guest Blogger: Jo Ann Simons, CEO, Cardinal Cushing Centers

I’ve been asking myself this question each time I read about cloud computing in the pages of the business section and have no idea what it means. But I knew I needed to solve the mystery when I was asked to participate this fall in a conference at the Coleman Institute at the University of Colorado. With the title “Implications of Cloud Computing for Residential Support and Service for People with Disabilities,” the gathering will bring together service providers, consumers and advocates, technologists, law and policy specialists.

What have I learned? Enough to know that the cloud is going to be a game-changer – indeed a universe-changer — for people with disabilities. If we think the IPad was revolutionary (and I do believe it was), we’ve seen nothing yet.

Imagine, the cloud will mean that each person with a disability will have a unique identifier (stored in the cloud) so that every time the person accesses their mobile phone, PDA, notebook, laptop, netbook, computer or any device with a screen (Metro card ticket machines, ATM machines, etc), the interface will look the same because the user will be identified and the font, size, colors and layout will look the way that works best for them.

A visually impaired person will see the size and color that best suits them and the volume will be set just for them. A person with a cognitive disability will see the same screen layout each time they access technology.

And the cloud is coming closer every day.  There’s already an international initiative, the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) that’s planning to inform the public and work with government regulators, to shape cloud policy. For example, they’re already shaping how people with disabilities will access all forms of technology in a way that will make sense to each and every user.

All this is just the beginning. As budget pressures continue to mount and in-person supports may be cut back, we must all find less labor-intensive ways to provide services. The cloud will go a long way in helping people with disabilities become more independent as they stay connected to what’s an increasingly virtual support system.

— Jo Ann Simons

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