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What about technology?

Assistive technology has come a long way and opens up opportunities for workplace inclusion and better productivity.

People with disabilities have a right to access workplaces where they possess the skills and knowledge to fulfil the essential requirements of the job. Unfortunately, access does not happen as a matter of course. The reality is employers usually need advice and assistance to modify jobs and workplaces appropriately.

Imagine for a moment that you’re a rehabilitation counsellor or case manager working to improve the work accessibility and sustainability for some of your clients. How would you begin to go about this? What could you recommend to employers?

Let’s take a look at some of the amazing advances in technology that can be used to directly improve the accessibility and working conditions of workplaces. Interestingly, some of these technologies not only benefit employees with disability, but ALL employees, through better ergonomics and increased efficiency.

What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

Independent Living Centres Australia (2011) defines it as any device, system or design, that allows people to perform tasks they would otherwise be unable to do. This includes design that increases the ease and safety of performing a task and those that allow the person to use a different technique or a new way of doing the same task. It also encompasses environmental design and home modifications.

Assistive Technology can be relatively simple and also highly sophisticated.

For example, it ranges from devices that assist people to open a jar, turn on a tap or open a door to more advanced technologies such as those used to create specialised computers, powered wheelchair controllers, home automation and environmental control systems.

Hi-tech support inspired by a James Bond movie

Watch the following video and discover how Randy was inspired to investigate text-to-speech and dictation software after watching a James Bond movie!

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Let’s consider more examples of AT, listed by LifeTec (2013)

Sensory aids for vision/hearing impaired such as magnifiers, large print screens, hearing aids, visual alerting systems, Braille and speech/telecommunication output devices

Recreational aids to enable participation in social or cultural events and sports such as audio description for movies, adaptive controls for video games, adaptive fishing rods, cuffs for grasping paddles/racquets and seating systems for boats

Home/workplace modifications such as structural adaptations that remove or reduce physical barriers like ramps, lifts, bathroom changes, automatic door openers and expanded doorways

Alternative and augmentative communication devices such as speech generating devices, voice amplification aids and communication software, help people with speech impairments or low vocal volume to communicate

Prosthetics and orthotics can replace or augment body parts with artificial limbs or other orthotic aids, such as splints and braces

Computer access aids include light pointers, modified or alternate keyboards, voice to text software, switches activated by pressure/sound/voice, touch screens, special software and headsticks

Environmental control systems help people control various appliances such as switches for appliances like the telephone/TV, and are activated by pressure, eyebrows or breath.

Watch Elle and her mother as they discuss the use of augmentative technology to overcome communication barriers as a result of cerebral palsy

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

There are literally thousands of examples on the web of simple and complex technologies that make a difference in people’s lives. It’s encouraging to see how small changes can make big differences to self esteem, quality of life and independence.

Your task

Using assistive technologies or modifying the work environment or tasks can facilitate a person’s return to work, enable a person to remain at work for longer, or allow them to take on new tasks. Can you think of a time you or someone you know has utilised assistive technology to help get the job done? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

References

Independent Living Centres. (2011). Using Assistive Technology.

LifeTec. (2013). What is Assistive Technology.

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This article is from the free online course:

Realising Career Potential: Rethinking Disability

Griffith University

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