Thank you to 3i Housing of Maine Board Member, Mitch Sturgeon for writing this piece on assistive technology. Learn more about Mitch on his blog, Enjoying the Ride.
What Is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology moves a person with a disability toward a richer, more fulfilling life and away from isolation and dependence on others. It can make the difference between a meaningful existence and merely existing.
According to the Assistive Technology Industry Association:
Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.
In recent years, the technology part of assistive technology has taken off, making the future brighter for anyone with a disability.
Below are some aspects of a person’s life that can be affected by assistive technology.
Without assistive technology, we must ask others to help us or to do things for us. We hate to burden people. We hate to rely on people. Inevitably, our helpers don’t have enough skill, time, or patience to do what we want, when we want, or as many times as we want. The only thing worse than soliciting help is needing help and not being able to find it.
In its most basic sense, physical disabilities prevent us from getting things done, which leads to any number of assaults on our quality of life.
Without assistive technology, the most ordinary aspects of human existence are rendered difficult or impossible. Normal life becomes an unattainable, distant memory. We stand out from others as different, damaged.
Human beings are wired to gain satisfaction from getting things done, at home or the workplace.
When even the simplest tasks require significant physical exertion, less gets done, and we become exhausted.
Physical disabilities induce inertia. It’s hard to get off the spot we are on. The relationship between humans and our surroundings is that humans do the moving about, and the surroundings are stationary. Not the other way around.
This is one of the first aspects of normal life that we let go of when we become physically disabled, and one of the last aspects we bring back into our lives when we incorporate assistive technology. That’s unfortunate.
Enter, Assistive Technology
As long as there have been people with physical disabilities, their caregivers have provided them with tools, with assistive technology. But society itself became responsible for providing assistive technology with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. This required that public spaces meet basic minimum requirements for accessibility. Although there were no provisions for personal assistive technology, because of increased attention, much assistive technology got better. Power wheelchairs and wheelchair vans improved. Ramps and grab bars became commonplace in people’s homes. Things definitely got better.
Enter, Smart Assistive Technology
In the last couple of decades, with the advent of smartphones and tablets, voice activation, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and so much more, assistive technology has become smarter and more powerful.
We can now control our living environments with our voice or with a touchpad. If our left arm doesn’t work, for example, we can buy a robotic left arm. Wheelchairs climb stairs. Dinner dishes feed you the food. Computers can be operated by almost anyone. And I get the feeling the best is yet to come.
As assistive technology improves, so do the lives of those people with disabilities. But here’s the catch. There is a huge disparity between people with disabilities who have the best assistive technology and people with disabilities who don’t. Part of that disparity is driven by each individual’s level of comfort with technology and with advocating for themselves. But the bigger part of the disparity has to do with money. The best technology is expensive, and only the best insurance policies provide reimbursement.
So, the good news is that assistive technology is more powerful and useful than ever. The challenge is to find ways to get that technology to all the people who can use it.
This is a worthy cause.
Join us for our online fundraising event, Innovation! Join us by helping us raise $10,000 to support our assistive technology efforts as we plan, build partnerships, and ensure our space will have all of the assistive technology residents need to live independently, confidently, and safely.
** Thanks to our event sponsors, all new monthly gifts this week will have the 2022 value of their gift matched 3:1 and all one-time gifts will be matched 1:1 (up to $2,500)!