ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY IS KEY TO EQUALITY IN A DIGITAL WORLDCategory: Newsworthy Notes
The following article was written by Matthew Lu, PRO’s youngest board member, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was still a teenager. Below, Matthew explores the ways assistive technology helps him navigate Parkinson’s.
In my experience as a young person with Parkinson’s, assistive technology has helped in many different ways to make things that might be overlooked by a non disabled person.
For instance, the simple act of writing in college was difficult for me. It took me longer to take notes because all of my concentration was focused on making sure my writing was legible later on when I had to review my notes. A helpful device during my college years that helped me gain success was a special pen called Livescribe. It would record the professor’s voice and you could cue the voice recording by tapping on the words that were written in class on a special paper with which the pen communicates. What is special about this pen is that each word you jot down is linked to the speech that is recorded. I was able to acquire this helpful technology by visiting an Assistive Technology Professional. This pen, which is made by a company called Livescribe, was completely free and provided by the school through their Office for Students with Disabilities – as long as I returned the equipment.
Another piece of equipment that I use quite often is Voice to Text – although I’ll warn you that it is not the most accurate if your voice is not close to the mic. This simple integrated piece of software is in the majority of smartphones and aids in communication for times when my tremor interferes with my typing. It can also make the back and forth of texting more natural as I speak directly into the phone.
Steady Mouse is an assistive software that makes using a computer mouse much smoother and steadier for people experiencing tremors. It uses a system called Advanced Anti- Tremoring Filtering, which eliminates the mouse going haywire and allows it to be used without difficulty. A neat feature included is a snap cursor that brings your cursor to the target even if you are a bit off of the trajectory point – it will still assist you to aim towards the target you want to click on. This piece of technology provides ease of use for navigating the computer with Parkinson’s or essential tremor, which will bring joy to many people’s lives – especially those of us attending PRO support groups on Zoom.
Assistive technology has helped many people do activities they may not be able to do otherwise. We need to keep this technology accessible to everyone. Maintaining accessibility to assistive technology is paramount for ensuring equity and inclusivity in sports, education, and various aspects of modern life. It empowers individuals who would otherwise face insurmountable barriers to participate fully and enjoy the benefits of education and other activities. While cost and potential misuse are valid concerns, these challenges should not deter our efforts to make assistive technology more affordable and ensure responsible use.
By prioritizing accessibility, we can foster a more inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to realize their full potential, regardless of their physical abilities or limitations. Embracing and supporting assistive technology is not just a matter of fairness; it is a step towards creating a more equitable and compassionate world for all.