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Independence Day: designing computer solutions for individuals with disability.


Designing Computer Solutions For Individuals With Disability

Independence Day is not a lot of things. And among those many things, it is certainly not a comprehensive recommendation of computer-based solutions for each and every kind of disability. Nor could it ever be. Indeed, it's not even a comprehensive recommendation for the four types of disability that were included.

And with good reason. Every computer-based solution, as we've tried to illustrate, is a result of a carefully planned, energetically pursued and individually determined process. How you proceed toward designing your own solution will determine how well that solution meets your needs. No one can undertake that process for you. Many people can -- and ought to -- help along the way ... but it's yours to start and to finish.

In other words, you need to write your own Independence Day chapter. Be wary, when you do, of others with quick fixes or glib responses. Be suspicious of anyone who suggests a solution based simply on the name of a disability. Remember what we said at the beginning: Questions such as "What's the right computer solution for someone with [insert any diagnostic label here]?" is an unanswerable question.

More useful are questions that begin with the individual. What does he want to do? What does she dream about? What kind of limitations does she have? Know, as specifically as possible, what objectives you're trying to meet, so that you can always be asking the answerable question: What computer solution will help me meet these goals?

There's another reason why we leave it to you to write your own chapter: Today's personal computer technology is changing at an astonishing pace. It's getting faster, more powerful, and often smaller and less expensive, all at the same time.

We're writing this page today, with a fair understanding of today's computer solutions. And, by today's standards, the solutions we've reviewed in the earlier chapters may certainly appear to be dramatic. But you're reading this sometime in the future. Maybe months from now, maybe years from now. All around you may be products and related services and support groups that we could never have guessed would have existed. Probably, they make much of what seems dramatic today kind of mundane by comparison. But only if you know about them. Only if you realize that they're waiting for you to discover them.

Computer technology will be changing probably forever. The process for designing personalized computer solutions, however, will remain pretty much the same. And when that process is pursued smartly and energetically, the benefits can prove to be enormous.

Indeed, we're hopeful that the single most enduring effect to personal computers on the lives of individuals with disability will be to change, quite literally, what it means to be disabled. Some disabling conditions, we believe, will, tomorrow, be gone forever because computer technology will have helped to make possible staggering advances in scientific and medical research and development. Other disabling conditions will still, of course, be with us ... but because of what personal computers will be able to do, the individuals with those disabilities will be more among us.

They'll be more fully participating. They'll be more competitive. More employed. They'll be more visible to all of society, who will be required to regard them for who disabled individuals really are rather than for what others have misinterpreted them to be.

Naively optimistic? We don't think so. The evidence that the experience of disability is changing as a result of computer technology grows more compelling everyday. All around the world we see increased independence on the part of computer users with disabilities. And new understandings and perceptions of disabled individuals on the part of everyone else.

Not an insignificant effect from what is, after all, just another machine in our already machine-laden lives. But what a stunning and singular machine. A machine that makes no a priori assumptions about an individual's limitations. That doesn't care whether its user has a diagnostic label. Because of what individuals with disabilities have been able to accomplish with this machine--academically, socially and vocationally--expectations for them are soaring. Visions of what might be possible for them are changing, expanding, everyday.
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Title Annotation:excerpt
Author:Green, Peter; Brightman, Alan J.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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