We’re flooded with new technological innovations, many of them advertising the way that they ‘change the game’ – but real technological innovations are those which actually change lives.
Assistive technology does this. This type of technology refers to equipment and devices which is assistive, adaptive or rehabilitative for people with disabilities.
The latest innovation I’ve seen in assistive technology brain-computer interface which bypasses spinal cord injury paralysis. This interface was created by scientists at the Northwestern University of Chicago and is able to bypass the spinal cord and restore fine motor movement to paralysed limbs. It aims to act as a new nervous system for the patient.
This is one of many of the technological developments for people with paralysed limbs. However, these are other disabilities which assistive technology continues to aid.
Assistive technology in computers has improved the usability of PCs for people who are deaf or blind. Braille computers, text-to-speech and screen readers are all examples of technology aimed at assisting the blind. Technology which assists the deaf community includes Text Telephones and Visual Alert Signallers.
But not all technology which can be used to assist people with disabilities was created with that function as the sole goal. Some mainstream technologies have been adapted to suit the needs of people with disabilities. In fact, even the iPad has played a role in this market by providing apps which assist children with special needs.
A major problem which I have encountered in reading about assistive technology is the price. While this technology can greatly improve the lives of people with disabilities, it is inaccessible to people who cannot afford the high prices.
This issue is pertinent in South Africa whose infrastructure is still developing in terms of accessibility to people with disabilities. While assistive technology is available in South Africa, it still has a long way to go in terms of development and price. This of course opens up the issue of the status of disable persons in South African society, with lack of accessibility being one of the symptoms.
While the Department of Education does have information on how to acquire assistive technology for children, assistive technology has a long way to go in South Africa. However, with things such as the ‘digital divide’ affected access to technology in SA, it’s uncertain as to when quality assistive tech will be available to the majority of South Africans who need it.
To see more assistive tech which was not mentioned here, check out my curated page on Scoop.it – Technology and Disability.