An NYC marathoner uses a wheelchair as an assistive technology

How Assistive Technologies Extend Your Abilities, Whether You’re Disabled Or Not

We Have A Long History Of Making Ourselves Better, No Matter Our (Lack Of) Abilities

Industry News, Mobile Strategy Comments (1)

In July, I wrote about how the inclusion of various sensors allowed mobile devices to augment and extend our performances as human beings. While technology is not a panacea for every challenge a person might face, the judicious addition of a technological aid can make a big difference in how they operate in the world.

In this sense, the potential benefits of augmentation with technology are not confined to persons with a disability, but can apply to all of us.

Humans have a long history of adding devices to their bodies or finding ways to amplify their abilities and experiences. An automobile is an assistive technology… so are glasses, dishwashers, electric toothbrushes, and deodorant.

When a technology development group – such as Float – creates a product that helps others have better experiences, it can be very gratifying. 

But, it can also be good business. When the production of new assistive devices is based on the idea of “universal design,” the results can help anyone who might benefit from the affordances of the new assistive technology.

As some of my disabled friends used to point out when I was a board member of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) many years ago, those of us not classified as disabled at the time were TABs – Temporarily Abled Bodied. Many of us acquire disabilities as we age, and may need assistive technologies later in life.

For persons with a disability, it is important to see the person first, and then to understand their abilities, aspirations, and limitations as you get to know them. Having said that, it is still remarkable what can be achieved with the strategic addition of the appropriate technology.

This is brought home in the trailer for the Paralympics held in Rio in the summer of 2016. Here we see outstanding feats by highly trained and talented athletes, often using technology to its maximum.

At the same time, some persons with a disability are critical of this heroic portrayal of “super humans,” pointing out that the lives of elite athletes are not typical of the lived experiences of most persons with disabilities. It is important that assistive technologies are developed to benefit everyone, and not just a minority who are in the spotlight. Yet, those athletes with disabilities also have a role in changing attitudes, and showing what is possible. They test the limits of new assistive technologies, which makes us better developers of assistive technologies for everyone.

At Float, we are excited to be working on Cydalion, a suite of assistive technologies for persons with a visual impairment that are bundled into a Tango phone or tablet. We hope to make a difference in the world while growing our custom digital programming and development business. To see Cydalion in action, please contact us.

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. He Gary Woodill is a senior analyst for Float Mobile Learning. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

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On November 30, 2016

One Response to How Assistive Technologies Extend Your Abilities, Whether You’re Disabled Or Not

  1. Mary Lightfoot says:

    Thank you for this article. Assistive technologies for deaf and hard of hearing people are also important to explore. For example, use of closed captioning assists deaf people, and all people when for example in noisy or public settings. In addition, it’s proven to aid with literacy skills for those whose first language is not English.

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