A fantastic, inspiring piece appeared on the BBC website recently detailing how advancements in technology are helping people with disabilities in ways that were unfathomable even a decade ago. Having done some research on a groundbreaking Swedish company called Tobii – who specialize in eye-tracking controlled computers – it’s safe to saythat much more is being done for the disabled than ever before.
The BBC article highlighted the field of bionics and what it could mean for not only an untapped workforce but also a way of saving governments millions of dollars in healthcare. Hugh Herr, an associate professor of biometrics at MIT Media Lab and an individual who lost both legs below the knee is one of the key developers of a new era of robotic limbs, “We can get people back to work, which is huge. That alone would cost the state millions of dollars…Furthermore, we can reduce or eliminate payments. A co-morbidity of limping is often back pain and joint pain – especially later in life. We’ve had patients that have cut their pain meds in half, or three-quarters – very large amounts,” he said.
But beyond the sheer mechanics and possibilities of employment, long out of reach for many, is the idea that those people with disabilities are able to ‘think outside of the box’ in ways that able-bodied individuals can’t. Barbara Otto, chief executive of Think Beyond The Label, a US non-profit organization helping employers bridge the gap in thought regarding hiring those with disabilities was quoted as saying, “Their day-to-day experiences inform some of their innovations…We often find as we’re looking for innovation in either design of technology or usability of software, people with disabilities are really able to provide that sort of missing innovation because of their day-to-day experience of having to innovate.”
Now with the help of technology and specifically robotics, the societal stigma of disabilities is the last remaining hurdle for those longing to join the workforce –hopefully that is changing as well.