Assistive Technology: A Bridge to Equality and Inclusion

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Technology has remarkably changed our way of life. It is very evident in the science, education, communication, construction, transportation, and business sectors. Through the years, businesses have been making a transformative transition to incorporate diversity and inclusion in their programs, paving the way for more opportunities for people with disabilities to reach their fullest potential and be represented.

  • Technology does not end with the success of one person, but with the assurance that everybody is able to succeed as well. It serves as a bridge for everyone, including people with disabilities, to reach their full potential.
  • Assistive technology is tech’s answer to promoting diversity and inclusivity when it comes to harnessing the capability of everyone, especially people who need aid.
  • Even if this technology is available, it is still up to the organizations, the companies, and the people to uphold diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.

How technology helps people with disabilities

Assistive technology refers to any devices, equipment, instruments, and software produced for and used by disabled people, so they can perform functions that are otherwise difficult.

The introduction of assistive technology has led people with disabilities to join the challenging and competitive workforce. It promotes independence as well as confidence as it minimizes the need for other support. Today, people with disabilities can be as productive and efficient as others. Here are some examples of assistive technology and how, as productivity tools, they help people in their daily pursuits.

  1. Voice Recognition (Speech-to-Text)

This allows devices to recognize spoken words and convert them to text. It is a handy tool for those with hearing impairments.

  1. Text-to-Speech 

Also known as “Read Aloud Technology,” it allows any electronic text to be converted into audio by a computer or mobile device. This is primarily designed for visually impaired individuals.

  1. Refreshable Braille Display

This device can be used by those who have visual disabilities. It acts as a screen reader software that translates the text to Braille. The Braille continuously keeps changing as you move the cursor on the screen—that’s why it’s refreshable.

  1. Reading Pens

This allows the individual to scan text in printed materials for the device to voice what is written in return.

  1. Visual Search Engines

These differ from the traditional search engines in that they search information on the web using images instead of words.

  1. Digital Recorders

These devices allows you to record and playback captured audio. With this device, people can record themselves, plan things to say, practice speeches, and dictate information that can be readily repeated later.

  1. Word Prediction Software

This software is handy for those who struggle with writing. It predicts what the user intends to type by guessing words based on phonetics, frequent use, and grammar patterns.

  1. Physical Aids

For those who have physical disabilities, these devices can help with mobility. These aids include wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, crutches, canes, and orthotic devices.

Other topics that emerged not long ago are predicted to change assistive technology as we know it. These topics include the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR).

Artificial intelligence has already been incorporated into some software and devices that help people struggling with communication and interaction. A grant was even awarded to the Kessler Foundation by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to develop a “Virtual Reality Job Interview Program” that aids previously brain-injured individuals looking to re-enter the workforce through the development of their social competency skills needed to ace a job interview.

Ways to encourage diversity and inclusion in organizations by supporting people with disabilities

Assistive technology serves as a helping hand for people with disabilities to perform well in their work. However, it is by the different organizations’ overall commitment to diversity and inclusion that true success can be achieved.

Here are some practices that can be adapted for this purpose:

  • Promoting a positive and inclusive culture

It is very important to create a welcoming and positive workplace culture through the provision of education, crash courses, or even company policies that advocate for diversity and inclusion. It is also a common practice to create or implement procedures and policies against harassment and discrimination.

  • Accessibility in the workplace

Simple things in life that we often take for granted can be physical barriers for people with disabilities. That’s why workplaces can be modified to cater to a diverse workforce.

  • Creating strategic corporate programs

These programs should be aligned with promoting inclusivity, such as cultivating different forms of communication, managing unconscious bias, encouragingsocial inclusiveness, providing equitable pay, and promoting cultural awareness.

For me, disability is a way of getting some extremity, some kind of very difficult situation, that throws an interesting light on people. – Mark Haddon

When skills, mental, and physical capabilities are not equally made, technology comes into play. It creates a bridge that fills the gap, fostering equal opportunities and creating a positive corporate environment where different perspectives are valued and embraced.

WRITTEN BY EDEN CANOY
EDITED BY RONALD ALAIN TAVITA
GRAPHICS BY ARMEE CABADING

REFERENCES

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Assistive Technology Devices for Physical Disabilities. (n.d.). Mouse4all. https://mouse4all.com/en/articles/assistive-technology-devices-for-physical-disabilities/

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D. (2021, August 10). Assistive Technologies Give People with Disabilities Opportunities for Independence. Disability Credit Canada | Disability Tax Credit & CPP Disability Services. https://disabilitycreditcanada.com/assistive-technology-independence/

How technology can provide greater opportunities for people with disabilities. (2019, September 9). International Labour Organization. http://www.ilo.org/jakarta/info/public/fs/WCMS_720937/lang–en/index.htm

How Technology is Creating New Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities. (2020, May 7). ACL Administration for Community Living. https://acl.gov/news-and-events/acl-blog/how-technology-creating-new-employment-opportunities-people-disabilities

Katz, P. (2021, April 8). Opening Up the Online World to People With Disabilities: Employment Spotlight. The Arc. https://thearc.org/blog/opening-up-the-online-world-to-people-with-disabilities-employment-spotlight/

Reddy, K. (2020, January 2). 150 Motivational or Inspirational Quotes for Disabled People. WiseStep. https://content.wisestep.com/motivational-inspirational-quotes-disabled/

Saloustros, R. (2018, June 26). Disability and Diversity: Creating a Culture of Inclusion. Rick Hansen Foundation. https://www.rickhansen.com/news-stories/blog/disability-and-diversity-creating-culture-inclusion

S.C. (2021, July 14). 15 Ways to Improve Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace. SocialChorus. https://socialchorus.com/blog/15-ways-to-improve-diversity-and-inclusion-in-the-workplace/

Staff, T. (2017, August 30). The Role Of Assistive Technology In Supporting Disabled Learners. TeachThought. https://www.teachthought.com/technology/the-role-of-assitive-technology-in-supporting-disabled-learners/

V. (2017, March 1). Four Reasons Augmented Reality Will Change Assistive Technology. Assistive Technology Blog. https://assistivetechnologyblog.com/2017/03/four-reasons-augmented-reality-will-change-assistive-technology.html

Wilcox, M. (n.d.). What are the examples of assistive technology? Colors New York. Retrieved September 4, 2021, from https://colors-newyork.com/what-are-the-examples-of-assistive-technology/

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