5 Ways New Technologies are Empowering People with Disabilities

by Maggie Hammond

While the term adaptive technology is fairly new, throughout history humanity has used technology to make life easier for the sick and disabled. As a matter of fact, one of the oldest and most recognizable examples of adaptive technology is the simple cane used by the blind. Today, adaptive tech is so advanced that it can sometimes border on science fiction. Here are five new technologies that are empowering people with disabilities.

1. The DynaVox EyeMax

The EyeMax allows people with cerebral palsy, stroke, and paralysis to communicate using only their eyes. As they read on an on-screen keyboard, a scanner tracks their eye movements and formulates words and phrases. These are then translated into sound using text-to-speech technology.

Because the EyeMax uses a combination of predefined words and phrases as well as pictures, it is also great for children, the mentally handicapped, and people with learning disabilities.

2. The Kapten PLUS Navigation System

Traveling can be tough for people who are visually challenged. Crossing a busy street is hazardous and finding their way in unfamiliar places can be difficult. With the Kapten PLUS, all this is history. This device is portable, has GPS, and dictates directions to its user. It also stores pre-determined routes for later use. Designed to complement the use of a guide-dog and cane, the Kapten allows visually impaired people to travel alone without getting lost.

3. The Google Driverless Car

Driving is one of the few things blind and mentally handicapped people cannot do. They have to rely on others to drive them around. All this is about to change if Google has its way. Its engineers have actually developed a “street legal” driverless car. Cameras and sensors mounted on the vehicle gather information about its surroundings. An on-board computer then interprets this data using artificial intelligence and Google’s Street view to help it find its way and avoid other cars.

4. The Dean Kamen’s Robotic Arm

Also known as the DEKA arm, this prosthetic arm from the inventor of the Segway is amazing in its capacity to mimic the human arm. It is lightweight and so sophisticated that it even allows its user to peel a grape.

This level of precision and control is the product of lengthy research by Dean Kamen and the DARPA research agency. Designed for soldiers maimed in active service, the DEKA arm has proven to be such as success, civilians might be using it soon.

5. Web apps

Besides the technical gadgets mentioned above, there are web apps that can also be of assistance. One of the most notable ones is the recently released CDC app for the influenza virus.

According to a study conducted by The University of Arizona aimed at its students seeking a master of public health or MPH degree, the 2016-2017 flu season is set to be one of the worst in 10 years, and this app aims to counteract this epidemic.

The app gives updated information on the spread of the flu and recommends vaccination practices. It also gives recommendations on diagnosis, treatment, and testing of the illness. More information on the CDC app can be obtained from the CDC website.

Technology has a big role to play in making the lives of people with disabilities and illnesses easier. It helps the disabled see, work, commute, and live comfortable, productive lives as full members of society.

About the Author

Maggie Hammond is a retired nurse and freelance writer, exploring and writing in the U.S. in retirement. An advocate for public health and nursing qualifications, she feels passionate about raising awareness of the current strain on public health organisations.