For me living with an impairment is a bit like being in a relationship, you and your impairment know each other very intimately, you share every moment together, you sleep together, eat together and spend a lot of time getting to know each other very well. Like most relationships you also have conflicts, and both sometimes desire different things. This certainly was the case with my impairment and me.
As I got older my disability became worse and by the time I turned 16 years old I had lost all movement in my hands. From being able to write, play musical instruments or even feed myself, I was left with no movement at all. It was as if my impairment had left me on a deserted island with no hope of getting back home.
Technology changed my life for the better
This is where technology came into effect and really changed my life for the better bringing more control and freedom to it. I remember a time when I was watching TV at home and CNN showed an advert for a new piece of technology that had come out in the US called the Smartnav.
It was a device that would let you control the mouse using your head. It works by sending a signal to a piece of reflective material which you can attach anywhere and when you move that, it would control the mouse. You can click using additional switches or keys on the keyboard. When I learnt about this I immediately contacted the suppliers and purchased it from the US. At the time I could not operate the computer without assistance and if this worked I would feel not completely disabled again.
I remember when the first one arrived it was faulty, and I was extremely disappointed. It meant that I had to return it and wait for the next one to arrive which came in a couple of weeks. As soon as I plugged it in and configured it, I was hoping that this would change my life and let me use a computer again. When I started using it, it was amazing! I was able to control the mouse with precision and complete control. It had opened up a new world to me as I was able to use the computer again, and hope of getting off that deserted island had become a possibility again.
Technology gives me the independence to be part of society.
The internet was a complete life changer
As I got older, the Internet started taking over people’s lives and more and more Internet Service Providers were providing Internet connectivity to people’s homes. Being able to use the internet was a complete life changer for me also because it meant I could communicate with anyone around the world and I could research and look at whatever I wanted.
The next piece of technology, which completely transformed my life again was a device called the Housemate which I have been using since February this year. This device with an app installed on your mobile, lets you control devices around your home. Being able to control the TV again was fantastic and I didn’t need to rely on having to ask someone to change channels or access recordings and so on. With this device I can control the TV completely, being able to record, playback recordings, change channels and fully operate my Sky box. Feeling bored was now not an option.
There is no limit to what technology could bring to disabled people’s lives
Without technology I don’t think I could really survive in this world, being imprisoned in a body which cannot move can be very depressing at times and it’s something I would not wish anyone to go through. Finding different ways to keep your hopes up and trying to perceive things positively can sometimes be a job in itself and extremely tiring. Technology brings a breath of fresh air to my life, being able to live it the way I want, giving me the independence to be part of society, be employed and share experiences with friends and family.
What I would really like to see is developers and manufacturers to develop more technology and software to bring more freedom and independence to lives of many disabled people out there, who rely on technology not as a luxury, but as a means to get through life on a daily basis. I think if there was more awareness raised in Information Technology about the needs of disabled people, then there is no limit to what technology could bring to people’s lives and perhaps maybe someday it could even get me off this deserted island that my impairment left me on many years ago.
We know there is still work to do until all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness, with digital and assistive technology playing a huge part in this. We all need to work together to change society for the better.