The Power of Technology for Individuals Living with Disabilities - Forward Ability Support

The Power of Technology for Individuals Living with Disabilities

By Joel Sardi

Technology has played a significant role in improving the lives of people with disabilities by offering various tools, devices and solutions that enhance their independence, communication, mobility and overall quality of life. In a short span of time, since acquiring my spinal cord injury, I’ve witnessed technology changing my daily routines. Here are some of my ‘hacks’ of using tech as a quadriplegic.

I’m an ‘Apple’ guy—whether it’s their phones, laptops, iPads, or any other products, I use them all. I recently spoke to the access team at Apple, and they mentioned how their ‘phone’, the most contemporary mainstream device that we all seem to own, is also the most accessible bit of tech in the market due to its dynamic inbuilt features. This achievement is largely due to the valuable feedback provided by individuals with lived experience, who shared their first-hand experiences and insights.

Without the ability to use my fingers, texting or navigating my device was difficult. That’s when I was introduced to ‘Siri’, and in no time it became the most spoken word in my daily life. I found myself writing emails, text messages, Facebook messages etc solely through voice to text. Given that my injury was fresh, there were endless messages and emails from doctors, friends and colleagues that I felt required my response. Whether I was in bed needing assistance with rolling or with a catheter, or if I had dropped my phone, or even if I had fallen out of my chair and required help, I could simply say “Hey Siri, call Elisa” or “call Mum.” The assistance provided by “Hey Siri” has been tremendously valuable to me.

My power wheelchair has the ability to elevate to the eye level of somebody who is standing. While this sounds simple, it is the most inclusive feature on the chair! Allowing me to reach items at heights greater than what I could otherwise, at the shops or at home. Moreover, the ability to elevate in social situations to speak to my mates or colleagues at an eye level when they are standing means:

  1. They don’t have to look down on me
  2. My neck is not sore staring up for hours at a time
  3. I can get a decent view of what’s around instead of staring at people’s hips and below!
  4. I can clearly see the stage or sports at venues (No matter what accessible platform you’re on, there is always someone taller!)

Smart home technology and environmental control systems have allowed me to control various aspects of my living and working environment, such as lighting, temperature, appliances, and security systems. There is an app for everything! Voice-activated assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home can be used to operate the systems I have seen and sampled, offering greater independence and convenience if I was to stay home alone for the day, or have my home hot/cold for my arrival after a day out.

Going to University to study psychology as a student for the first time at the age of 30 was bloody daunting. With or without a SCI. But the resources made available to the students, who identified as having access requirements, were nothing short of incredible. Australian Catholic University (ACU) was and still is the world class in this space. The benefits and allowances given to me are not to be made public as they all differ based on personal circumstances, but I could not speak higher of ACU for what they are doing in this space for their students.

I witness it every day with work as well, the ability to interview for a job via video, to work from home and connect to a meeting virtually. This eliminates the barriers of physical distance and transportation, enabling me to engage in conversations, collaborate in ongoing work projects, and attend events in QLD etc., from the comfort of my own home office! Ongoing advancements and innovations continue to expand the possibilities and improve accessibility for individuals with diverse needs and abilities. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have these options at my fingertips, as it has made my life a lot simpler in complex times.