By Mark E. Smith
From my CEO to my life-long best friend, a conversation keeps popping up that’s quite fascinating. It’s what I’ve coined “The Disability-Technology Continuum.”
The disability-technology continuum, as I’ve defined it, is an extremely simple yet profound concept. It’s the fact that technology literally makes us less disabled – that is, it improves upon virtually every aspect of our lives, that when we have appropriate technology, our abilities and quality of life expand.
I can use the disability-technology continuum as a prime example in my own life toward how it works and its ultimate results. Imagine there’s a scale from 0 to 100. Zero is totally disabled, as in bed-ridden, and 100 is totally independent. Without a mobility device, I’m at 0 because, based on my disability, I’d be bed-ridden. However, if I have a manual wheelchair, my functionality increases to, say, 30 on the continuum. Yet, with a power chair, now I may be at, say, 60, and with an elevating seat added, I’m bumped up to 65. You get the idea: appropriate technology increases independence, lessening the impact of disability.
Of course, many aspects move one along the disability-technology continuum. Mobility equipment, computer technology, adaptive transportation, and accessible housing, to name a few, all play key roles in moving us from the bottom end of the continuum toward the upper end – and it’s near the upper end where aspects like education, employment, and community involvement skyrocket. And, as we move up the continuum, we don’t just win, everyone wins, as our independence benefits many, where we simply can contribute more toward society.
All of this, however, requires exactly that – societal support, where, culturally all understand the importance of supporting moving others up the disability-technology continuum. See, technology can only get those with disabilities so far. It’s societal support and acceptance that both allow and complete the disability-technology continuum. Technology can physically liberate those of us with severe disabilities, but, make no mistake, we need a society that fosters that process.