What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is a term used for technology that is used for better functioning and productivity for people with disabilities. It is a common term encompassing all hardware, software, and peripherals developed to aid in accessibility for disabled people. Over the years, with remarkable advancements in Information Technology (IT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), disability assistive devices have emerged as saviors for the disabled community.
Let’s discuss a few scenarios where we understand how technology has progressed towards addressing disability challenges.
Disability and Assistive Technology
Disability can be of various forms and levels. It can be a physical or a mental disability. The reasons might vary as well. In some cases, disabilities can be caused by birth or due to genetic reasons. In some cases, disabilities can be faced later in life due to certain diseases or accidents. A person facing an occupational hazard in an unsafe work environment can face a life-threatening disability for a lifetime.
Similarly, a road accident or a chronic disease like polio can transform a healthy person into a vegetable for the rest of his life. Certain neurotic or mental conditions can also trigger mental disorders in people. These are examples of high levels of disability. A few billion people need prescription glasses, hearing aids, or other assistive devices to lead an everyday life. All these come under the broad spectrum of assistive technology. When we tear a ligament or fracture a bone, the braces, crutches, or walkers we use also come under this category.
In some cases, the disability is cured with time and proper treatment, but in some cases, the damage is permanent and incurable. Elderly people also face disabilities in the later phase of their lives due to age-related concerns. Assistive technology plays a vital role in attempting to normalize the lives of people dealing with any kind of disability.
An inspiring story to remember
The contributions of Stephen Hawking in the field of modern science are indisputable. It is hard to imagine the challenges that he met throughout his life dealing with a rare disease named ALS, still managing to defy the odds with his indomitable spirit and assistive technology. He battled with an incurable disease for 55 years of his precious life that would have been a nightmare for a person in such a debilitating condition. The reason for his survival? Well, that can be a matter of debate. Apart from his extraordinary intellect, he was backed by fame, finance, and technology. He found a way to address his limitations through technology in the most innovative way. The motorized wheelchair and the computer-generated voice made him express his theories to the world. This is a classic example where assistive technology made a significant mark in defying natural restraints.
Disability friendly measures
Daily, we come across many technologies explicitly meant for disabled people. We experience the “read aloud,” “hands-free,” or “Accessibility checker” options on our computers using popular software and apps. These are classic examples of organizations considering the disabled community, who comprise a huge percentage of the global population. The shopping malls, airports, train stations, or commercial spaces providing accessible options like lifts, ramps, etc., for disabled people are welcoming changes from a social point of view. AI-based devices that involve sensors and robots to replicate human intelligence in a presentable format are also common. The technology-driven wheelchairs and Disability assistive aids, where the user hardly needs any human intervention for his movements, is a miracle from science. These aids are convenient and lightweight options for travel. Compared to the traditional ones, these wheelchairs are battery-operated and can travel long distances with a single charge. Also, the user’s comfort is considered with optimum back support. However, the only challenge is to overcome the price and availability constraints to make it accessible to the people in need.
Technology in the field of assistive devices has many possibilities in the future. With widespread awareness, strategic implementation, and policy rectification, assistive technology can be accessible to ordinary people suffering from disabilities. The makers of assistive devices should keep the cost factor in mind to reach a more extensive user base. Also, the suppliers must take adequate measures for better distribution and follow-up of the products.