Can you ever have too much technology?

Emerging assistive technology, what is it and is it for you? How do you know?

Young child with ILC staff member using an iPadYoung or old, at some time in your life you are likely to experience an impairment that will affect how you interact with your environment and the people around you. Assistive technology or equipment for daily living could be the key to maintaining your independence and enjoyment of life.

You may be using a piece of ‘assistive technology’ right now and don’t even know it. It can come in many shapes and forms and be high tech or low tech. It could be a piece of mainstream technology that you use every day like a mobile or house phone but it has large buttons, the jar opener that means you don’t have to ask your husband for help to open your favourite jar of jam, it may be your son’s iPad that has that special app that engages him in learning, or the computer you sit at that speaks to you in a quirky voice reading out an email from your son overseas.

For me it is my smart phone, a grown up version of my long past small brick Nokia that I hardly used because as someone with a vision impairment it was only good for receiving phone calls, the numbers and icons being too small to make any use of. I am in another world with my smartphone, it connects me to friends all over the word, is a great work tool, it helps me plan, share photos and information, I can use it as a writing pad, a Dictaphone, an artists easel and download loads of free apps that turn it into a torch or a magnifier. I couldn’t live without it and I’m not joking, I am one of those people that you see with their heads in it all the time.

New and exciting assistive technology is being developed all the time and to me it seems to be happening at an amazing pace. While the aim of some developments may be to make able bodied people’s lives easier and activities safer, the implications for people with disabilities is far reaching. Other technologies are being developed specifically for people with disabilities. I am only now learning about some of them and I can’t wait to see them on the market.

Did you know that in America you can now buy a ‘driverless’ car from BMW and Audi? These cars are designed to make driving safer using steering, breaking and throttle to control acceleration, deceleration and direction in very small, exact amounts. There are also sensors, environmental modeling and decision and driving strategy technologies that BMW is working on. Read the full article here. Imagine the implications for people with disabilities and older people with a medical condition that find they are now unable to drive. I’d even consider getting behind the wheel if I could afford one of these!

In the future you will ‘train your brain’ to drive the powered wheelchair that you now drive with a joy stick and exoskeletons are being built and trialled to allow people who are paralysed to walk. Brave New World with Stephen Hawking. For those with type one diabetes testing with a needle will be a thing of the past as Google kicks up the major technology trend of the year where a contact lens with a sensor will enable a person’s blood to be tested and the results sent to the wearer.

While access by consumers to this technology is still some years away; with the increase in the aging population, number of people with disabilities and our desire to stay in our homes and communities; this technology and combination of technologies is going to have a major impact on our ability to do so as long as it is affordable and for those accessing funding, seen as cost effective.

There are many who already use a range of assistive technologies to live safely and independently in their homes. There is a plethora of technologies available that meet peoples diverse needs including:

This year I am looking forward to accessing assistive technology at work that will read long paragraphs of text on my computer as my eyes can find this very tiring. At home I would love to win lotto and have a 60 inch TV on the wall hooked up so that I can watch TV and see people’s expressions more clearly and divide the screen so that my husband and I can watch TV and view the internet at the same time using Apple TV. Of course I will never be without my ‘smartphone’ and one day hope it will have a big brother ‘tablet’ with an attachable keyboard… I firmly believe ‘you can never have too much technology’!

What’s your favourite piece of technology or equipment? I’d love to know.


10 Responses

  1. sally says:

    My husband just got a car that tells him when he has left the lane without indicating. he cant drive into the rear of anyone and if the cars take off in front of you and he doesn’t move it beeps at him. Its all closer than we think and it is going to keep people safe and mobile for longer.

    • Gail Stacey says:

      Yes great tools if you are distracted or tired. Watching the ‘Brave New World’ piece about driverless cars was amazing. Seeing the reporter go from being so distrusting of a computer driving a car at speed to preferring it to a human in such a short time makes you realise how quickly we take on new technologies. While people will still want to drive because they enjoy the experience, in alot of instances like driving to work on the freeway I am sure people will love being able to pass this task over to the car so they can do their makeup, text or eat breakfast and still feel safe. For those with impairment it will surely make driving a much more enjoyable task.

  2. Sheryl says:

    A very insightful, thought provoking read and look into the future. It is exciting to see what it holds for those with disabilities and the ageing population. I know so many people who’s lives would be enriched and made easier with what is available now, let alone what is being ‘invented’, developed and trialled.

  3. Karen says:

    What a very thought provoking blog Gail….amazing how we just accept all of these assistive technologies into our lives without realizing it. I too love my smartphone as my eyes aren’t what they used to be – I’ve been using my son’s wheelchair the last week after injuring my ankle – I also love facebook, which has totally replaced the need to write and post letters which I absolutely loathed doing in the “old” days. Many things in our lives are just introduced and taken for granted. Please warn me though when you decide to drive a car…lol scary!!

    • Gail Stacey says:

      Lol lucky I am in another country Karen!

      Thanks for sharing what works for you. Yes love the smartphone and am still finding new things that I didn’t know it can do. I love the navigation as I have difficulty reading signs so even out walking in a new area I use it to find where to go…I used it to get to my job interview here 🙂

  4. Sharmistha Choudhary says:

    I so agree Gail , we can never have to much technology. Very well written blog and useful information provided.

    My favorite technology (Google Glass) is expected to be launched this year. It might take technology at another level. 🙂

  5. Sara Chong says:

    At the moment my husband loves turning on music in our house and blasting it though the place just by using his iPhone as a remote to his Airport express (connected to his Mac mini’s iTunes, the apple fiend!). It always makes our guests jump that music suddenly turns on with no one physically at the stereo!

    • Gail Stacey says:

      Yes some people really make use of all aspects of their technology while others are totally unaware of some of the things that their gadgets can do for them. Your husband is totally the former and I bet your guests are looking into how they can do this now as well!

  6. Gail Stacey says:

    Apps are emerging as a key prescription being given by GP’s in America with no fewer than 10 being given clearance by the FDA to operate as a medical device and two insurance companies already agreeing to pay the bill for patients whose doctors ask them to use the clinically trialled ‘DiabetesManager’ system when it is available early next year. Shows just where telehealth is heading…
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