Erin Kelly, a writer with cerebral palsy, shows how tech can go beyond making life easier and into making life meaningful.
Webster’s Dictionary defines technology as “the practical application of science to commerce or industry.”
Tech has integrated itself so seamlessly into our work and play that it often goes unnoticed. Truth is, for many, it’s become part of the recipe for achieving The American Dream. However, I think there’s something to be said about the “practical” aspect of Webster’s definition—something that’s become as common as candy but isn’t talked about much.
Of course it would be silly not to integrate technology beyond our offices, factories, and fields. It’s the gateway to efficiency—and for the majority of employers as well as employees—the use of technology is often a conscious personal or professional choice. They choose to use it knowing its potential to help themselves and the companies they represent produce the best possible results. It makes their business more accessible to consumers—allowing for a kind of cerebral, tangible freedom that can stretch across the globe.
In the video below, however, graphic designer Leigh-Anne Tompkins demonstrates how the use of an adapted head piece assists her in creating custom-made logos and designs, as well as typing the text that accompany them. Why is this important? Because Tompkins is one of the almost 650 million individuals worldwide with some form of a disability. Like me, she has cerebral palsy. Using a speech output device linked to her home computer, she outlines her journey and explains how the world of graphic design brings her own to life.
Her story got me thinking: Does technology play a bigger role in the lives of physically challenged individuals than those without?
For me, the meaning of “practical” is forever linked to a question I often reflect on: “Do I let my disability control my life—or do I want an opportunity to live a dream and be accepted into society?”
Companies like AbleData, The American Foundation for the Blind, and Dynavox all provide a range of products, services, and information and they’ve played a serious role in creating countless success stories. That being said, “to upgrade” to a new device can take on a totally different meaning for the millions who truly rely on technology.
I started elementary school typing on a device called a Liberator—a communication board with approximately 140 keys, each representing multiple things. In junior high and high school I graduated to a laptop equipped with adapted programs for writing and speaking. I’m fortunate to say the only piece of equipment I use today (other than my wheelchair) is a standard desktop computer. It was a very gradual process, but if I hadn’t gone through it, I don’t think I’d have the appreciation and respect for technology that I do now. I think it was all part of my path to achieving dreams, however elementary they may have been at the time.
Dreams come in all shapes and sizes, and the dream of many disabled people is simply to contribute to society. Achieving their dreams proves that it doesn’t matter what path you take to get there, it just matters that you make it your own—like Leigh-Anne Tompkins. Check out her inspiring story: