Technological advancements have become an essential part of the disabled community’s way of life. These improvements are far-reaching and include increasing mobility, inclusivity and general ease of life.

According to a community survey released by Statistics South Africa, the South African national disability prevalence was 7.7% in 2016. This includes over one and a half million people who experience some difficulty in hearing. Professor Swanepoel from UP’s Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, is part of the development of the ‘hearScope’ – a smartphone otoscope used for the diagnosis of ear disease. According to the HearX website, this development strives towards low-cost automated smartphone and cloud-based otitis media diagnosis. It is this kind of technology that could result in early intervention and help treat the onset of hearing problems in the future.

There have also been several advancements in hearing aid technology. According to Johns Hopkins medicine, a more digital approach has been taken. Their website says, “When you are fit with digital hearing aids, your hearing test is stored in the Hopkins Hearing database. Your audiologist then connects your hearing aid to the computer and programs the device so it can read the degree and pattern of hearing loss for the individual ear.” This technology allows hearing aids to be customised for an individual’s hearing loss. The technology also includes advancements that automatically increase and decrease volume based on a person’s surrounding environment. This results in a better understanding of the patient’s condition and easier access to better treatment options, while being user-friendly.

The 2017 winner of the AbilityNet Accessibility Award was the Bristol Braille technology. The Braille technology called the Canute combines the likes of e-book technology and Braille reading in order to make this kind of luxury attainable to the blind community as well. According to the Tech4goodawards website, “[The] Canute shows a full page of text rather [than] a single line, meaning it can be used to teach mathematical and scientific formulas.” With the Canute, they hope to not only improve obtainability for the blind community, but also increase blind literacy, education, employment, and social engagement.

Prosthetic limb technology is another field where there is rapid improvement being made in order to make life easier for those in need. According to the website, Horton’s Orthotics and Prosthetics, Johns Hopkins University has recently developed a prosthetic arm that can be controlled by a person’s mind; this means that brain signals can be sent to the prosthetic and control up to 26 joints. Though this technology is not fully available to the public, it is still a promising advancement in this field. Aesthetically there are also improvements, which include a skin-covering to camouflage the prosthetic. The role of assisting technology in disabled people’s lives is extensive and highly necessary. These advancements do not only give people the ease of accessibility, but it also grants independence and self-satisfaction to those who need it.

Image: Michelle Hartzenberg

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