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What does Technology mean to Persons with Disabilities?

India is undergoing a new reform — ‘Smart India’ and ‘Digital India’. We can easily term it a technology boom. All citizens, companies and government is trying to be compatible with the new agenda adopted by the country. However can we really call this boom all inclusive? Is there space for persons with various challenges, be they physical or intellectual, to take part in ‘Smart India’?

Without a doubt technology can be a game-changer for persons with disabilities. The new assistive technologies that are being developed all around the world are making it easier for persons with disabilities to access and interact with the world in new ways that overcome their challenge.

• For instance, screens often serve as a useful interface for children with autism, who may find face-to-face communication challenging.
• Likewise, eye-tracking technology has been used with children with severe Cerebral Palsy, who are fully paralysed, as a form of communication.
• Some parents of children with disabilities find personal trackers useful as a way of keeping an eye on their child with disabilities while they are out and about by themselves, giving the child a degree of independence without compromising their safety.

However, technology can also be excluding. A number of big challenges loom:
• Firstly, there is the question of affordability. Currently, very few assistive technology products are manufactured in India, and their costs remain very high, limiting their potential reach.
• Secondly, there is a general lack of knowledge amongst persons with disabilities, their caregivers, service providers and others about what is available and how to use it to support the person with challenges.
• Finally, many mainstream products, including websites, smartphones and mobile apps, are not accessible for persons with disabilities. This means that even while technology can help overcome some aspects of a challenge, it is also creating new zones of exclusion.

Source: Youth Ki Awaaz

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