Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pimp My Ride

I have been doing some research recently about the use "appropriate technology" or "appropriate technical assistance" versus providing technology or assistance based on traditional belief systems. I believe my interest in this grew from a time not too long ago when my school district was insisting that Ashley, my daughter who has deafblindness, use a picture based communication device. On the surface, it might seem like a good tool with which to train Ashley to communicate. She has just enough vision in one eye with which to see the pictures on the device, and if you turn the volume up to max, she might be able to make out a few of the device's spoken words. But, there were several problems.

First, for the device to speak loudly enough for Ashley to hear it, it would be most annoying to those around her. Secondly, she didn't want to use it. She has always prefered sign language to communicate. The school's argument was that very few people signed and the communication device would make it easier for Ashley to communicate with those people. Setting aside the fact that it is not my goal to make life more accomodating for people other than Ashley, Ashley is quite aware of the fact that not everyone can sign. And she adapts herself to those situations. For example, if she wants something she can't reach, and the person near her doesn't understand her sign language, Ashley will take the person's hand and lift it towards the item she wants. In all her 13 years, I've never seen anyone not understand that gesture.

I could list many other situations involving Ashley and other people with disabilities in which inappropriate technology was used. The result is never good. The article linked below, a story from the BBC News Channel, cites an example of the use of appropriate technology. I really believe it is time for providers (and this includes families) to take into account the preferences, the environmental, ethical, and economic concerns of people to whom technology and technical assistance is being provided.

Wheelchair for Africa


mommy~dearest said...

Oh good grief. When will they learn that assistive technology (or any service for that matter) has to benefit the person it's assisting first?

Especially something as important as communication. I had a client where I work, who was Deaf. He preferred Sign and speech (he was an excellent lip-reader), but his (hearing) sister wanted him to talk. I Signed and spoke with him, and advocated for him to use Sign and speech to communicate.

I also almost lost my job.

I continued to carry on with my client as I always had, but eventually had to change positions because my whole program I was in "switched gears" and was losing that client focus fast.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to this. I am also deafblind - blind and hard of hearing. When I was about twelve, I was given a set of equipment that was supposed to help me with hearing everybody in the classroom, at meal times in the residential school I was in, etc.
It was a receiver and a transmitter. The person/people speaking to me had to speak into the microphone on the transmitter and I would recieve the sound direct6ly into my hearing aids throught he reciever.
However, I wasn't happy with it, as I couldn't hear where the sounds were coming from as everything came directly into my hearing aids. Being blind as well, I found this very uncormfortable and disorientating. It was fine when it was just the teacher talking to the whole class, but in all other situations it was more of a hinderence than a help.
But nobody could understand this. Everyone assumed and expected me to find it a help, because it made life easier for them. I didn't realise this at the time, but your post made me think of this and I see now that it was very simular to what you7 described; people not taking a persons individual situation and needs into account.

Fortunately I now have much better hearing aids so don't need any extra technology to help with that impairmenty anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Setting aside the fact that it is not my goal to make life more accomodating for people other than Ashley"

Very well said.