Summer Foundation was invited to present information about advances in the areas of housing and technology for young people in nursing homes this week. At this conference, Rebecca Wood and I showcased housing and support models that the Summer Foundation has been developing, and discussed what we have learnt from these models.
This conference is exploring the “new world” of technologies that is quickly unfolding around us, and which promises great new opportunities for people with disabilities. These technologies include driverless cars, wheelchairs operated by thoughts only, and robots that can interpret your intentions and respond in “real time”. Some of the biggest technology companies in the world were there to discuss a future most of us haven’t even started to dream about yet.
One challenging aspect of this technology is that it is now possible to track your web-browsing and use of apps. While this has aspects of a “Big Brother” watching you, for someone without the capacity or the knowledge to readily find out about services, having technology that suggests possibilities may be a great asset. There is even the suggestion that government services will start to use this system, so that people with disability can receive advice about services that they might not be aware of, but are entitled to.
But perhaps the greatest challenge is getting a sense of the extraordinary technologies that are being created, but are still some time away from being readily available and affordable. The way this generally works is that the first generation of equipment is usually very expensive, but like smart phones, as more people start to purchase them, they generally get cheaper. It’s also clear that unless we provide good training to use them, and they are kept as simple to use as possible, then they may be abandoned, even if they can do great things.
I was really pleased to see a whole range of young, tech-savvy engineers and designers, who know that if you want functional and useful designs, then you need to work with people with disabilities. It’s no longer acceptable to design a great device and then try to get it adopted by people who have to ‘fit in’ with your ideas. ‘Nothing for us, without us’, is the strategy that is really getting through to a new generation of disability supporters.
Keep an eye on the NDIS – there may be some great ideas from this conference that provide you with a future that you never thought possible.