It is no news that Apple is on top of things when it comes to accessibility. Popular Apple products like iPhone and iPad have become the defacto device for disabled people because of their ease of use, lots of accessibility features, and an app ecosystem that keeps growing. Professionals in the assistive technology or special education realm – teachers, therapists, caregivers and others know very well how useful and efficient tablets and other digital devices can be, and how they change a disabled person’s experiences, bring them independence, and make communication for them so much easier. However, is that common knowledge?
To celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, Apple has released a couple of videos that convey a certain message – every day technology empowers disabled people. There are certain elements of day to day life that it definitely makes easier (communication, performing chores, navigation, etc.) but all of them combined bring a sense of joy and accomplishment to a person who is a part of that experience. because they can now do things they couldn’t a few years or decades ago. Technology elevates their confidence, and encourages them to to participate in conversations, activities and helps them be more social.
“No more isolation.”
Dillan, a teenager, and the subject of these videos, has Autism, and has difficulty communicating through speech. If someone has speech impairment and/or does not make eye contact, the general perception is that the person has lack of intelligence. However, that is never the case. As Dillan’s mother points out in the videos – just because he doesn’t speak doesn’t mean that he has nothing to say, and that is a very important concept that everyone needs to comprehend. Societal norms have made verbal communication the default mode of communication, and it has made people assume that anyone who cannot speak is not easy to communicate with. Able bodied individuals in society need to expand their horizons, change their thought processes, and understand that people with disabilities can use technology very easily to communicate, to experience things around them, to perform their daily activities, and to feel affection from their loved ones.
“Without a voice, people only see my autism, and not the real me.”
That statement just reinforces the fact that common societal perceptions towards disabled people are negative, and able bodied people generally have preconceived notions about individuals with disabilities.
Assistive technology has seen huge shifts in the last decade – it is much more affordable, friendly, portable and has become a way of life for many disabled people. An able bodied person need to make assumptions anymore when they see a person with a disability. Instead, they should just walk up to them and start a conversation without any hesitation.
It is important to understand that through technology, everyone gets a voice, and everyone has the ability to express themselves in various ways. We all have to just open our minds and be inclusive of everyone around us.
Side Note: There is a new section in the Apple App Store called Voice of Autism that has educational and every day apps, as well as podcasts about people living with Autism.