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As we approach the 21st century, there are noticeable advancements in technology that is making communication much easier for the people of the world. The people who are now achieving more due to this technology are those with disabilities. The new wave of electronics is coming in the form of assistive technology. Assistive technology is a device or process that helps a person with a disability to do something that could otherwise be difficult or impossible to accomplish. By implementing appliances into people's lives who are unable to communicate without aid, a new door is being opened for the disabled. With the use of alternate access aids, hearing aids, and alternative communication devices, just to name a few, a newfound dignity is being realized by people who otherwise would not be able to communicate on a regular basis. In this essay, I will address new technologies for people who are disadvantaged in the communication field and how these devices are adding not only to their lives, but to the communication process as a whole. The more quickly the world can become compatible for people who are incapable of customary communication, the more quickly the walls that stand in the way of communication will be scaled. Once this is achieved, it will pave the way for a world where communication is available to all people and no longer will being disabled put you at a disability. Technology has taken a giant leap in the right direction with the invention of new devices that can be used to help people who are disabled to be able to communicate more effectively. Inventions such as the Liberator, hearing aids, augmentative and alternative access aids, and so on, have made great improvements to the amount of communication that people with disabilities can become involved in. These assistive technologies are, in some cases, the only means of communication a disabled person has. A new device that I feel is notable and very beneficial to disadvantaged people is that of the Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA). This aid produces synthesized speech that can be readily understood by the general public and therefore improving interactions with speaking individuals. In one study, it was noted that the VOCA improved communication in a person who has profound mental retardation from 21% to 86%. A follow up of the patient after a month of using the VOCA produced that she used her VOCA for 75% of her communicative behavior. (Schepis & Reid, 1995, p.75.) Another device that has been used is one that has the similar use of a telephone. These future telephones or information appliances accommodate the choice of either visual mode (typing) or auditory mode (speaking), thus direct communication can be achieved and communicating parties no longer are handicapped by single-modality services that are not compatible. (Brummel, 1994) These phones help people who have never before had the chance to use a telephone or who have never been able address another person in a regular fashion. Another method that is soon anticipated is a visual communication appliance. This satisfies a range of needs from sign language transmission to handwritten note sharing as an alternative to auditory mode for conversations. (Brummel, 1994) As these technologies keep becoming mainstream, it seems possible that all people who have trouble with communication otherwise will soon have an outlet that allows them the pleasure of not being singled out due to their lack of skills when it comes to communication. Past technologies are now very popular among the everyday person as well as being for the disabled. For example, a hearing aid. These aids were, from the beginning used to enhance the hearing of a person who is deaf. These now are used for anyone who has any hearing problem, including the elderly as they get older and their hearing becomes worse. Another such invention is that of a wheelchair. A wheelchair makes it possible for people who cannot walk on their own to get about allowing more interaction with others. These have become two very widespread inventions. The most popular of all the technologies is known as the Telecommunications Device (TDD). This carries conversation typed into a keyboard over telephone lines and displays it on the receiving TDD. It can also be used if the person is blind, as the letters on the keyboard have brail and the computer can say the message out loud.(High Tech, 1989, p.50.) This has made a very considerable impact on the deaf and blind community. They no longer have to worry about how they will communicate with a person who is not in the same room as themselves. Thus, the new technology that is coming into effect prevents hang-ups on the phone, people laughing or staring, and helps people to better understand the disabilities and then aids them in trying to communicate with them. These technologies that are being introduced into the world have a great influence on communication with the disabled. But they also have more implications than in just communication. The inventions have been helping people who are disabled to have a larger amount of self respect and dignity. When these are achieved, communication will become more frequent with people outside of their own families, creating a better life for the person with a disability. As Ronald Stephens puts it, once disabled people can work with technology they gain an independence that considerably improves the quality of their life. (1987, p.61) This independence can be very rewarding and helps the person to become a more productive part of society. The reason for the advancements in the technology is fairly simple and beneficial. It stresses that it is to affirm the belief that dignity and equality and independence of people with disabilities is of utmost importance, and to educate people with disabilities, rehab specialists, parents and others about technological advancements that improves the lives of people with disabilities and to insure access to the important technology. (Center on Disabilities, 1999) That is to say that the dignity of these people is far more important than anything else and that, with the aid of technology, it can be realized. Holding a job and other things that are thought to be everyday to normal people can be very rewarding to people with disabilities. This is being accomplished with the help of technology. Many disability rights advocates foresee significant changes in the job market for people with disabilities, and a diverse more efficient workforce accommodated by new telecommunication services and products. (Flinn, 1999) With this new technology, deaf people can hold jobs in telecommunications, telephone operators and various other jobs. When a person has dignity and independence, there is a feeling of contentment. A person who has no means of communication with other people is going to feel good about themselves as a result of being able to use a device that will help them have normal contact. Technology is not showing people what they cannot do, but it is showing them what they can achieve with a little help. This is what is the most important factor in the dawn of a technological revolution for those with disabilities. In conclusion, I feel that it is very necessary for the development of technology to continue ,and thus, increase the amount of dignity and self-respect a disabled person feels. Technologies such as VOCA, TDD's, brail computers, and so on have made the world a better place for people with disabilities. The reason for the advancement in technology is to aid the ability a person has. If a person's ability is assisted by technology, the person will feel better about him or herself. If a person feels better about themselves, they will be more productive in society. Also, not only does technology aid the disabled in communication, but it aids people like us who want to be able to communicate better with a person who has a disability. And so, it is the steps forward in technological devices that is aiding disabled people to be able to function in society as a normal, productive person. Bibliography Works Cited List MLA Style Bowe, F,G. Access to the Information Age: Fundamental Decisions in Telecommunications Policy. Policy Studies Journal 21 (1993): 765-774. Brummel, Susan. People With Disabilities and NII. Yuri Rubinsky Insight Foundation Webpage. 7 Sept 1994 . Center On Disabilities. 1999 ‘Technology and Persons With Disabilities' Conference. 17 March 1999. . Doss, S.L. and Reichie, J. Using Graphic Organization Aids To Promote Independent Functioning. Implementing Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (1991): 275-288. Flinn, Nancy. UCPA Homepage. 5 Dec 1999. Hendry, J. and Kerr, R. Communication Through Physical Activity For Learning Disabled Children. Perceptual and Motor Skills 56 (1983): 155-158 High-Tech Aids Offer New Options to Deaf, Blind. Futurist 23 (1989): 50-51. Parette, H.P., Jr. Assessing the Influence of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Devices On Families of Young Children With Disabilities. Perceptual and Motor Skills 78 (1994): 1362-62. Schepis, M.M. and Reid, D.H. Effects of A Voice Output Communication Aid On Interactions Between Support Personnel And An Individual With Multiple Disablilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 28 (1993): 765-774. I found this article to one of the better ones for my project. It is done in the experiment form, stating method, observations, and conclusions. It very clearly sided with my argument and it also gave personal glimpses into some of the participants. The thesis was included in the introductory paragraph and it also was very clear. I will be using this article. Stephens, R. A Voice for the Disabled. New Scientist 114 (1987): 58-61. Thompson, Anne R. Mississippi State University. College Students With Disabilities And Assistive Technology. Word Count: 1344

   

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