Promoting Humanity Through Assistive Technologies

assitive-technologiesOne of the most humanizing aspects of technology is the development of assistive technology in order to enhance web accessibility for the disabled. The most revolutionary of these assistive technologies is the text-to-speech software and text-to-Braille hardware. These types of these technologies enable blind people to access the internet and hence enjoy the limitless web resources. For the partially blind and those with poor eyesight, web content creators ensure that text and images are easily resized or enlarged for enhanced viewing.

The Hereditary Monster

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA assitive devicesMy specific enthusiasm with sight-enabling web accessibility tools may appear biased, but I must confess my special sentiments for this particular technology is personal.

My younger brother is an avid internet enthusiast; the boy devours anything and everything online, starting from video games onto social media and all the other kid stuff. However, the young boy was diagnosed with the hereditary Type 1 diabetes at the age of six. Diabetes is an awful disease that really sips the life and energy out of a human being. The disease has haunted our family for generations and is the cause of death for about three relatives in my lifetime.

When he was diagnosed with the disease, the young boy did not even understand what it meant and he quickly got used to the insulin injections and the diabetic lifestyle. However, when he turned thirteen, when his enthusiasm with electronic gadgets and the internet was at the peak, the boy developed diabetic retinopathy!

This is a diabetic complication that damages the person’s retina usually after suffering from the monstrous disease for about eight to ten years.

Diabetic retinopathy strikes without warning causing blurred vision and then leading to blindness if not properly monitored and treated. At first my brother did not even report his sight complications thinking that they were caused by his frequent computer use hence fearing that he would be denied access if he reported. Consequently, the disease spread and by the time he reported, the young boy was partially blind.

Technological Savior

assitive-technologies1Thanks to modern medical technology, the boy can still see, albeit partially. However, the greatest joy and appreciation, especially according to the boy, is that he can still use his computer. The doctors are very strict regarding the use of bright screens and so on but the boy does not have to worry about that because he can safely use the very user-friendly text-to-speech software. He is also learning how to use the text-to-Braille hardware. Being a computer enthusiast and tech savvy has really helped the boy to adapt to his partial eyesight status. He has readily grasped the use of assistive technology at a surprisingly fast rate. The boy has even gotten the rest of the family to indulge in training people on the importance of these technologies and why they need to be embraced by all computer developers and even an outdated hog like me who believes that the primary purpose of the web is to chat has gotten some useful web accessibility skills that may come in handy some day.

Although I have singled out the sight-enabling technologies due to personal reasons, I have also read and witnessed the revolutionary nature of other assistive technologies for auditory (deaf), motor (mobility), and cognitive (intellectual) impairment, and even for other medical conditions such as photo-epileptic seizures. Web accessibility technology tools and these technologies are a lifeline to the society and offer a glimmer of hope for those of us that are physically, medically or intellectually impaired. Thanks to the technology and web accessibility tools, although the awful diabetes may dim the young boy’s eyesight it will not dim his enthusiasm for the internet.