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Technological resources for persons with disabilities

Thanks to technological development, people with disabilities make every day progress towards their digital and social integration on an equal footing. The integrative role of the new technologies is unquestionable and, thanks to the support systems for persons with disabilities, effective integration in the Labour and social field is promoted which equates opportunities and fosters a fairer society.

Advantages of using technological resources. ICT and disability

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15 per cent of the world’s population suffers from some form of disability. That means around 900 million people around the world. In Andalusia there are thousands of people with disabilities who can see their professional and personal possibilities reduced, but thanks to the development of technologies and support systems for people with disabilities they are moving towards their digital and social integration on equal terms.

The advantages of ICT for people with disabilities are more than evident and this is evident in the recent report “Disability, Integration and the role of ICT”, prepared by the Vodafone Foundation and Cocemfe, which stresses that the use of new technologies is widespread among people with disabilities, since:

  • 83% have a mobile phone of which 62% is a smartphone.
  • Three out of four people with disabilities have a computer to connect to the Internet.
  • Nearly 7 out of 10 people with disabilities surveyed Connect daily to the Internet
  • 80% use some technological resource in their day-to-day.
  • Mobile applications are the most commonly used resource for people with some kind of visual or hearing impairment.
  • People with visual disabilities are the ones who make the most common use of the mobile phone.
  • 17 per cent use some kind of technological resources or support system for persons with disabilities.

Classification of support systems for persons with disabilities

The technological resources for disability are very varied and for their better understanding can be classified into groups.

Alternative and augmenting systems of access to environmental information

They are ICT resources and tools for people with visual or hearing disabilities, which modify the signal, increase it or change it so that it can be perceived in a more accessible way. As we have seen, technology for the visually impaired is one of the most popular terms in the search for support systems for people with disabilities and we can find it in:

  • Augmentation Systems target people with visual and hearing difficulties, but still retain some of their sensory abilities. The device increases the signal sent to the subject so that it can be received by him without problems.
  • The alternative systems are media which allow, people to whom it is impossible that the information will reach them through a particular sensory modality, to change the nature of that information so that they can access it through another sensory modality the person to keep functional.

Augmentative and alternative communication

Systems developed for people with disabilities who cannot access a verbal-oral communication code.

  • Augmentative systems are instruments that complement oral language, when it alone is insufficient to maintain effective communication with others.
  • Alternative systems are any form of communication other than speech and used by a person in face-to-face communication contexts.

Computer access technologies

Adapt the technology for people with disabilities from tools, tools, adaptive interfaces that allow people with physical or sensory disabilities to use a computer. For example:

  • Signposts and push buttons: tools that allow the user to access computer peripherals without changing or adapting them. Examples are: buccal Rod (allows the user to press the computer keys by holding it with the mouth); foot push button (to drive with the foot); fiber optic push button (it is actuated with eye movements); etc.
  • Keyboards: there are several types of keyboards used by people with disabilities. Some examples are: special keyboards (larger than normal or smaller to adapt to the amplitude of movement of users); ergonomic keyboard (to adapt to The Shape of the hands or fingers, or to be used with one hand); concept keyboard (can be programmed and associated to various spaces of the same, in addition the size of each key can be programmed to adapt to the needs of the user); Braille line (translates monitor information, whether text, graphics or other, into braille); etc.

Technologies for personal mobility

Related to the mobility of people and architectural barriers. They are instruments designed to reduce a disability, performing the function that the person alone cannot do. For example: articulated arms or supports, wheelchair-attached communicators, micro-robots, adapted cranes, etc.

Two examples of this technology for people with motor disabilities are::

  • Paraplegic Chip: created by British scientists, it is a small implantable device that releases electrical impulses to help paralyzed people exercise. It is placed between the spinal nerves where it releases electrical impulses.
  • “Phantom” or finger-robot for the Blind: a mechanism that, through a combination of virtual reality scenarios attached to a finger-robot, allows the blind to feel the touch of the objects represented informatically, allowing them to appreciate whether a structure is concave or convex, or to know the texture or thickness of a piece. Linked, for example, to the map of a house, the blind person can draw a mental sketch of it and avoid possible obstacles.

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