Raising Awareness on Technology Options for People with Autism
November 1, 2011 Prism Newsletter
By Ann Cameron Caldwell
I’ll be honest: I have an agenda. That agenda is to raise the awareness and use of technology options and solutions for people with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families.
Smart phones and smart homes. Apps. Remote telecare, GPS, Skype, iChat, audiobooks. Cloud computing. These words are relatively new to our language; they didn’t exist ten years ago in the public eye and would not have meant anything to most of us back then. But these words today represent a new reality – a reality that has significant implications for the Disability Nation. At this time in our history – cloud technologies – is one of the most important thought revolutions that has happened to mankind, no less of a change agent to our global society than the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. What is happening today in places like Google and Amazon and Apple is changing and will forever change our world and how we live in it.
So why is this so important? There are strong indicators that the resources we have today that support the needs of people with I/DD including autism will not be there for us in the near future. Among these indicators are the ever decreasing amount of government funds to support the needs of people with disabilities, aging family caregivers, tough economies, high unemployment, and a decreasing number of direct support professionals that have traditionally provided care and support to those that need it. What do we think is going to happen when there are fewer dollars to spend on direct support care? Most people with autism and I/DD live with their families – what is going to happen when parents age out of being able to provide care? What will we do when we can’t find enough people to work as “DSPs” and as the aging baby boomers’ escalating needs crowd into the shrinking workforce?
Turning to technology to provide “a little bit of help” may be one of the most valuable things you do. There are resources – on the web – that can help you sort it out. One great resource is our own Autism NOW website that has several achived webinars on technology subjects. Also, Ablelink Technologies is a company that is developing progressive solutions that you might find interesting. Finally, smarthome technology is beginning to emerge, you might look at Imagine Smart Homes to see what is possible. The Arc will be providing more information on new solutions so please visit our website frequently.
At one point, in order to light a room, a person lit a candle. At some point after that, they lit the room by flicking a switch. Much had to happen for that behavior pattern to change, but it started by thinking about how to achieve an end goal in a different way. The candle is burning low, and there aren’t many left to use. We all need to be thinking about ways to use new technologies to support people with disabilities. We need to learn the new words, and change behaviors before the lights go down.
Ann Cameron Caldwell is The Arc’s Chief Research and Innovations Officer.