There is no way you can possibly know what it is like to live with a disability unless you have one. No one is questioning your empathy. It is not a matter of that. There are just limits to our ability to feel another’s pain. Even if you find yourself in a wheelchair for a couple of weeks after an accident while you heal, that is not the same as being in one permanently.
Because the elderly are more likely to be disabled, this may explain the findings reported by the New York Times that suicide rates are high among the elderly. Certain forms of disability can lead to terminal forms of depression. We have reason to be concerned when we or a loved one becomes disabled.
But there are ways to fight off this lethal depression. First and foremost, it is probably a good idea for the newly disabled to see a counselor to help them deal with their new reality. Beyond this, technology is providing some other ways to help overcome the negative effects of disability. Here is a short list:
Tech that Keeps You Mobile
When one uses a mobility chair, such as those offered by Quingo, they are using advanced mobility tech. For countless people, the ability to get out of the house on a regular basis is the only thing separating them from being shut-ins. As ugly as the word sounds, the reality of it is even more harsh.
Life can be truncated when we lose the ability to explore beyond our four walls. When one loses their mobility, their world shrinks dramatically. Their options for cheerfulness and surprise become much more limited. The effects of this get even worse as the practice of visitation becomes rarer. A sudden loss of mobility is the quickest path to solitude and loneliness.
So whenever possible, help disabled loved ones acquire the technology that returns their mobility. It is one of the most important and direct ways technology makes living with a disability possible.
Tech That Helps You See
A picture isn’t worth a thousand words if you can’t see it. Making out the details of a picture is well beyond the capabilities of millions of people with blindness or visual impairment. When vision is greatly reduced or eliminated, it perpetuates the illusion that the world has closed in around you.
Microsoft has recently showcased an app that uses AI to narrate the world to the blind. It is called Seeing AI, and is available only on iOS. It is a free app, but also very much a version 1 effort. It is also not fully functioning for users running iOS 11 beta.
iOS also has a builtin digital magnifier that does the job of stand-alone devices that can run over $1,000. There are other apps that can scan and read documents aloud. iOS itself stands alone as the clear leader in first-party accessibility in the smartphone space, and probably the whole of consumer electronics.
The point is that with the devices you carry with you every day, there are advances occurring that return many of the benefits of sight to the blind. Even Facebook has a feature that tries to describe images to the blind when accessibility features are used. Everyday is a little more beautiful when it can be seen.
Tech That Gives You Voice
Happiness can affect physical health. Frustration can also affect it, but negatively. And few things can be more frustrating than the inability to communicate what it is you need. Some time ago, CBS reported on apps for people with autism. These apps give people the ability to communicate clearly who formerly were unable to communicate at all.
Technology is not the answer to all of life’s woes. But it can make some of them a lot more livable. Technology that returns some measure of mobility, vision, and speech to those without is not quite a miracle. But for millions of disabled people, it is close enough.