New improvements in technology help people with disabilities communicate

In 2018 Tech Issue, Opinion

At the touch of a button or simple tap of a screen, technology makes communication effortless. People may worry about how frequently technology is used to communicate with others, but the one group that’s received a significant and invaluable breakthrough is people who have disabilities.

Disabled people are some of the most likely to experience social seclusion from others, as reported by the Mental Health Foundation.

Advancements in technology may allow people who are blind or have cerebral palsy to experience conversation with those who otherwise might be unsure of how to carry a conversation with them.

People often take tablets or speech recognition for granted, but disabled people can experience social inclusion without the fear of letting their disability take a toll on their interactions with others.

Apps like iSpeech help people with speech impediments by translating text that they have written into speech. The Able to Include Project also has a social media app to simplify communication for people with intellectual disabilities.

Eyegaze technology has made it possible for people with cerebral palsy to communicate by using head movements, lessening their dependence on others.

Rather than be stumped by a language barrier, technology minimizes room for misinterpretations or struggles within conversations. It creates less discomfort for people with disabilities by helping them feel more socially engaged with conversations by communicating on their own.

Nearly one in five people have a disability, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Such a significant population deserves to be able to communicate and experience social activities without having to worry about being left out, misunderstood or babied.

Paul Miller, director Emeritus of Disability Support Services & Student Athlete Assistance Program at CSUF, noticed how the population of disabled students on campus has grown and been positively impacted by technology.

I went from 70 to 80 students the first year or two, to close to 1,500 that we serve,” Miller said. “We keep supporting them and encouraging them to be as independent as possible, to learn all of the tricks of the trade. Technology has made a groundswell of change for students with disabilities.”

Truly, everyone, regardless of physical or intellectual disability, wants to be treated normally and without having to deal with unnecessary awkwardness.

Those who have adapted to communicative technology as if it were involuntary, like breathing, can easily interact with those with disabilities. They even create a feeling of normalcy that keeps people from being uncomfortable or flustered by having to talk to a person who may not understand their disability or impediment.

It’s hard not to become defined by a distinct physical or intellectual characteristic, but technology can help erase people’s judgements and by relying less on physical features and more on actual interactions.

It would also make people who have disabilities feel more at ease knowing that they will be understood and viewed for their personality and commonalities with others.

Even though some people may be wary about whether or not the overuse of technology inhibits social interactions with others, it can be a necessary form of engagement.

Innovations in communication for disabled people are constantly being improved and revised but still need more bright-minded people to create new ideas. People’s fear of change shouldn’t hinder the advancement of technology for social media or voice recognition.

There are specialized custom-made wheelchairs and speech augmentation systems for people that don’t have a voice,” Miller said. “It’s really nice because more and more people with disabilities are going into this field of computer science, technology and design.”

Let technology help people, as it aims to do. With the right reasons and the right results, technology makes tremendous strides in bridging communication between unlikely pairs and gives them a feeling of inclusion.

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