The advances in technology in recent years is phenomenal, and just this week I came across three separate articles talking about how technology can help disabled people work more effectively. In no particular order, here they are:
Bionic revolution: The tech getting disabled people into work
This BBC article talks about how pioneering technology – known as bionics – can open up the workplace to people previously unable to work. At its cutting edge is Hugh Herr, an associate professor of biometrics at MIT Media Lab; himself using bionic lower legs following a double amputation caused by frostbite, meaning he can still climb. Currently only available in America, these bionic limbs not only match the functions of a normal human leg, but are in many ways superior. The consequence of limping can cause back and joint pain, which these limbs eradicate, cutting pain levels (and therefore medication) significantly. This article also talks about other initiatives which help disabled people work, as further described in the following article:
Technology ‘creates employment lifeline for disabled people’
This article, published by the Employers’ Forum on Disability, discusses the rise in telecommuting, allowing more and more people to work from home, including jobs that previously would not have been suitable for home working. Accessibility utilities are increasingly being built into computer products by manufacturers such as Microsoft and Apple. The rising popularity of social media as a business tool for marketing, recruitment and other areas also opens this up to working from home. There are many “apps” being developed which will make technology more accessible to a wide range of disabled people.
How technology is helping people with speech impairments to talk
Then I came across this article in the Guardian, exploring the technology that can help people to talk (think Stephen Hawking as a popular example). This is eye-gazing technology (more properly called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)). An example of its application is described in the article. Alan Martin, who has Cerebral Palsy, was previously only able to communicate through facial expressions and gestures. Now, with AAC, he runs a company called “Mouse on the Move” – a dance company providing inclusive dance workshops for people with disabilities. As Stephen Hawking says, “Even more important than the freedom of speech is the freedom to speak.”
It’s great to think that technology might open doors for some disabled people who thought they might be closed forever. In a much less dramatic way, I couldn’t run Evenbreak without technology – obviously it’s an online business, which I run from a lap top, suspended above my electrically-adjustable bed, using Dragon technology so that I don’t always need to physically use the keyboard. The advances in this field really can change people’s (and businesses’) lives.
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