The assistive technology profession can be summed up like most great things. It’s rewarding but frustrating. Challenging but exhilarating. Inspiring and at the same time vexing. Technology is available for so many that could benefit yet they cannot afford it, and individuals that could be successful using a device may be resistant to trying it. These are the challenges and rewards that an Assistive Technology Professional tackles on a daily basis, and here are my top reasons why it’s so great!
Technology has been around for a long time. The first piece of technology was probably a rock or a stick. Can you imagine the conversations people had, talking about the weird guy over in the hill country that was going to ruin the old way of doing things? When we think of technology today, images that come to mind are computers and smartphones. As we move forward the technology will be everywhere, from wearable devices like google glass and virtual headgear to implanted devices and mind control. As a professional in this field I have the opportunity, no, responsibility to stay informed on all of the old, current, and developing technology.
Providing assistive technology services means that you need to be creative. Often times individuals will walk into our demonstration center and ask, “What do you have for hearing loss?” The answer is not as simple as the question. The options for hearing loss and all disability categories (e.g. vision, computer access, communication, and learning) can have a multitude of device possibilities because of the different things people want to do, and just like fingerprints; no disability is the same for every person. Creativity is a great reward and also a requirement.
Very few professional fields have a community spirit like assistive technology. Individuals have a passion for serving people, exploring technology, and sharing what they learn along the way. This is a group of people that understand you cannot have all the answers, and aren’t afraid to acknowledge it. The beauty of this awareness is that reaching out to colleagues in the office, state, nationally, or throughout the world can happen and the end result is an individual with a disability being successful using technology. It’s a synergy that empowers everyone.
These are the people we serve. These are the individuals who use amplified and large button phones to connect with family and friends on the telephone because of a hearing loss. The person who suffered a traumatic brain injury and needs a scheduling system so they can be as independent as possible. The teenager that uses specialized software programs because he has difficulty reading and writing. The 50 year old man that wants to start using his computer with only his voice because he has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and knows that using his hands will be harder and harder as time passes. The 65 year old woman that now uses an iPad for magnifying print because of a surgery that went wrong. All of these examples have something in common:
Person with a disability + Challenge + Assistive Technology = SUCCESS
Assistive Technology truly changes people’s lives. Not only has it improved the lives of people that use it on a daily basis, it has also enriched my life in ways I would have never expected!