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Conversations on technology for community service providers

Technology Makes Things Easier…and Possible


I’ve been quite fascinated with technology lately. And I admit, my reasons are somewhat selfish.

As a freelancer, I am all about productivity. Being as efficient as I can be translates into a better return for me (and for my clients), plus it reduces my workload. I consider that reduction in workload essential to my work/life balance. For any one of us, enjoying a healthy work/life balance is a good thing.

The ability to increase productivity is growing by leaps and bounds in today’s technological world (see 20 productivity tools to try). Technology allows us to:

• automate tasks;
• share with coworkers more efficiently;
• track progress on goals, and;
• analyze data.

It has simplified our work, and given time to individuals and organizations they never had before. But what about those of us with an impairment?

”For most of us, technology makes things easier. For a person with a disability, it makes things possible” 
~ Judy Heumann Disability Rights Activist.

Not just easier. Possible.

Now we all know the leaps and bounds that have been made in technology toward making life easier for those with special needs. There are a multitude of assistive devices and apps out there, and for a wide range of the disabled population (which is approximately 1 billion people according to the World Bank). Some of this technology makes certain things possible, or more possible at least.

For example, these three life-changing technologies were unveiled at the 2017 Assistive Technology Conference, a conference which explored technologies to help everyone regardless of their ability to see, hear, or move (CSMC18, a Canadian conference for those who work in the area of assistive technology takes place May 1 & 2, 2018 in Toronto). Unveiled were:

1. A virtual assistant for the blind
Aira's goal is to "develop leading technology and services that help remove remaining barriers for the visually impaired, expanding their possibilities to live with greater confidence and independence". They do this by acting as a remote personal assistant – communicating remotely, through headphones while ‘watching’ what the users ‘see’ using smartglasses that are equipped with microphone and a camera. Once connected, the agent can describe the user's surroundings, or any other multitude of descriptive services (one user got their agent to give a play-by-play of his daughter’s soccer game!)

2. A steady spoon
Liftware Steady is a utensil system equipped with sensors and motors that can cancel out a customer’s tremor and cut down on spills. For someone with hands that shake due to tremors, this assistive device can save a lot of embarrassment and mess. Nobody likes to have their soup end up on their lap. 

3. Hearing AI
This is an app that uses artificial intelligence to interpret sounds. Including alarms like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alerts. But one of its incredible features is that it uses deep learning to convert text to speech, making it easier for the user to communicate with the hearing world. It also uses augmented reality to try to help with their understanding of the sounds that are happening around them. This assistive technology is currently only available for iOS smartphones in beta, but looks pretty promising. 

That’s the thing about assistive devices – the abilities they put into the users hands (ears, eyes, etc) can be life changing - they make things possible - and these possibilities are only bound to grow with the continued development of assistive devices, and further, with the advancement of artificial intelligence. More on that in future blog posts, but rest assured, be it productivity in work, or indeed in life, the advancement of technology has definitely made things easier…and in some cases, possible. I for one, think that is a good thing.


For information on assistive devices in Canada:

List of assistive device companies, by province and type 

• List of potential alternative funding sources

Canadian Assistive Devices Association 

Topics: Technology adpative technology trends artificial intelligence efficiency Productivity Disability