The Role of Technology in Empowering Lives of People with Special Needs
During the last decade, Technological Advancement has made a significant change in the lives of people with special needs. There are many disability safe devices in the market that provide assistance to people with special needs. These devices remarkably reduce the dependence that people with special needs had on other people and allows them to lead a self-sustaining life. In India, the Census of 2001 has officially revealed that over 21 million people are suffering from certain types of disabilities. But according to me, those are just the official records. There are still hundreds of other people who have been kept hidden by their families due to their disabilities as it is considered taboo. There are also major apprehensions about introducing people with special needs in public in rural areas. This notion can be changed in the minds of people with the advent of technology.
Technological advancements have been a game-changer for specially-abled people. These are classified into two which are Rehabilitative Technologies and Assistive Technologies.
Rehabilitative Technologies are for people who have developed minor disabilities due to accidents or injuries. These are used by people to rehabilitate and provide limited assistance for them until they recover.
Assistive technologies enable people with special needs to compensate for certain disabilities and it promotes their independence. These assistances can help people to care for themselves and helps in interacting with people. People with special needs are greatly benefitted by these advancements.
Incorporating technology in basic disability-friendly devices like wheelchairs and hearing aids enhance the quality and makes the device user friendly. In recent times, AI-enabled hearing aids and smart wheelchairs equipped with sensors and audio control have been developed. However, these devices cannot be afforded by most of the people in urban/rural areas so the goal is to provide these same advancements which are at cost-effective rates and are inclusive to everyone with special needs. Technology must be an important equalizer for these people in the society.
Modern technology also helps specially challenged students to learn in a user-friendly environment. Due to diversity in the type of disabilities, there should be a customized plan and solution for every student so that they all feel included. For example, a person with learning disabilities and a visually impaired person can’t use the same technology for their specific needs. The former may need assistive technologies and his speed of learning might be slower and for the latter, he/she would need smart visual devices and audiobooks to help him learn. As a result, a student can choose the type and speed of learning that is more convenient for him which leads to more personalized learning. This also helps in the simplification of communication and helps in improving the academic skills of specially challenged students.
Our society is often not aware of the potential of children with special needs because they always identify specifically challenged people with lower expectations. This notion has been proved false by many people. Famous specially challenged people have contributed a lot to society in many fields. For example, Stephen Hawking is one of the names that come to our mind when we talk about how intelligence trumps disability. Stephen Hawking was a British cosmologist and physicist most famously known for his notable scientific works regarding the theoretical prediction of radiation emission from black holes (Hawking Radiation), Penrose–Hawking theorems, the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also referred to as motor neuron disease, the disease which involves the death of neurons in a patient’s brain. As a result of muscle twitching and a slow deterioration of muscles that lead to difficulty in swallowing, he lost the ability to speak. After that, he used a number of devices and gadgets to give lectures and communicate with people. He even wrote many books regarding phenomena and won many awards for his contribution to Physics. Thus, his disability wasn’t a barrier for him to achieve the extraordinary.
There are also many other people around the world who may not be so famous in the sense society deems so, but still face struggles and overcome their disabilities successfully every day of their lives. For these people, technological advancements greatly help them in their daily tasks. The use of technology breaks the barriers for people with disabilities by providing them with access to everything and helping in redefining their lives.