Technology never gives up

Being able-bodied gives you the ability to do simple things without any thought. Example? Take the computer you’re sat in front of right now. Bashing away at the keys is second nature to you and you just simply get on with it. Unless of course it’s to stop and abuse the poor internet speed. But for many disabled people, that simple process would be tough going, if not out of the question. But thanks to ‘assistive technology’, times are a changing.

Eye tracking technology is one thing that’s gone all Mission Impossible. It allows disabled people to crack the whip on their computers through the blink of their eyes. But how? A transmitter throws out an infrared beam, which after bouncing off the eyes, returns home to the camera. Calculations are made, numbers are crunched, and the on screen pointer takes the hint and moves.

So just by staring, blinking or using a separate switch, users can send emails, browse the web or even shop online. This thing has a bright future.

Get more on the impressive My Tobii eye tracking device here: tobii.com

Speech recognition software also demands some respect: howstuffworks.com. Dreamed up for dyslexia sufferers and people that don’t hit it off with keyboards, this software grabs your speech and transfers it to your screen. Confused? Don’t be. Simply put, the software uses the sound of the word, ditches background noise and sets it to a standard volume or speed. From its mountain of words it then picks out one with the closest match. It even has the intelligence to learn your voice, recognize more words and make fewer mistakes. Sounds like a true friend to us.

Give it time and speech recognition software may open its doors to everyone. We think typing will soon be making its excuses.

But where to after speech power? Let’s give mind power a try.

You might think it’ll never happen. But guess what? It is. Four brave patients agreed to have electrodes planted to their old grey matter (brains to you and me) to prove it works. After receiving brain signals these electrodes fed back to a computer and the cursor shifted. And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, mind power works.

The possibilities stretch far and wide and people like games manufacturers are already getting all giddy. No surprise there then. Read about the excitement here.

Research into brain signals to power computers and prosthetic limbs are this click away: livescience.com

To work in the fields of assistive technology you could become:

  • An education officer supporting schools and budgeting for technology for pupils with special educational needs
  • school teacher teaching pupils with a range of abilities
  • special educational needs teacher teaching pupils with special educational needs and familiarising them with equipment to help them get the most out of their education
  • An occupational therapist helping people to live normal lives by helping them find ways to adapt to their circumstances

To give the masses access to different types of technology you might want to be:

  • An ergonomist ensuring that all people of differing abilities are considered in the design of new technology so that it doesn’t need to be adapted later on
  • biomedical engineer bringing together a knowledge of materials and medicine to find ways in which the body can substitute one motion for another
  • An electronics engineer building components for new assistive technologies
  • software developer writing software to improve speech recognition and control computer systems without conventional keyboard and mouse commands
  • computer hardware engineer building components to help with assistive technologies