November 26, 2014 18:29 UTC

This Is America

How Technology Can Help Disabled People Live More Normal Lives

Third in a series of four reports on living with a disability in the US; earlier programs dealt with education and employment. <em>Transcript of radio broadcast:</em>

VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Faith Lapidus. This week on our program, we have the third part of our series on living with a disability in America. In January we looked at education. Last month we talked about jobs. Today we discuss assistive technology.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Technology offers many different ways to help people with disabilities lead more normal lives. Devices that help them perform an activity are called assistive technology. Assistive technology can help people reach their personal and professional goals.

The invention of the telephone might not have been very exciting to a deaf person. But it led to a way to send text messages over a phone line with the use of a teletypewriter, or TTY.

VOICE TWO:

Today, with special care, Web site designers can make their sites highly accessible to disabled users.

There are both simple devices and very complex ones to help people with disabilities.

VOICE ONE:

Even something as low-tech as a small piece of soft plastic can be an assistive technology. Attached to a pencil, it might help a child hold the pencil better if the child has trouble writing.

VOICE TWO:                     

Blind people can have documents read out loud electronically on their computer. And for people who cannot use their arms to type, speech recognition programs may be the answer. These let people give commands to their computer or have their words turned into print.

What about a person who is not able to speak? There are now special devices to help them, too. An American company called Blink Twice produces a device that looks like a handheld computer game. The device is called Tango.

VOICE ONE:

Tango was invented by Richard Ellenson, the father of an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. This condition affects a person's ability to move and speak. With Tango, his son Thomas can touch pictures that express his feelings or the words he wants to say. A voice then speaks the words that Thomas has chosen.

The company's Web site has examples of what Tango sounds like:

TANGO: "How was your day? OK. Where did you go today? Oh. Did you do anything fun? Let me think of another question. Did you see anybody I know? Ah-ha! Last question. Did you miss me? I missed you!"

VOICE TWO:

Other voices, ideas and words can be added to meet the interests and needs of the individual user. For example, when Thomas watches sports, he can play cheers for his team that were recorded in his father's voice.

Richard Ellenson says he wants Tango to help people with disabilities build relationships, not just sentences. Right now, Tango costs about seven thousand dollars. But this is a new device, and the price of new technology often comes down after a few years.

VOICE ONE:

There are many devices to help people with disabilities use computers. There are ways for people to operate a computer by moving their heads or even just their eyes.

There are also keyboards that can be used with only one hand. One of these small keyboards is called a FrogPad. One young girl used the FrogPad at school. Her mother said the small keyboard helped her daughter work normally at school, and her friends thought the FrogPad was great.

VOICE TWO:

Students with disabilities want to be like their friends; they want to be able to do things as normally as possible. So for young people, technology must not only help them do their work. The devices must also be cool.

Ben is a fifteen-year-old boy in Maine. He was born with a condition called spina bifida. He cannot move his arms or legs. He uses a small device called a TongueTouch Keypad, made by a California company, newAbilities Systems.

The keypad is placed in the mouth. Ben learned to use his tongue to touch different keys. They operate his telephone, his computer, his electric wheelchair, his bed and his music player.

Ben is able to get in and out of his house without help. And he can even turn his music up loud if he wants to.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Sometimes, all it takes to improve on existing technology is a little imagination. Like adding a voice to clocks and watches so they announce the time. Or printing children's books in Braille with both raised marks and traditional text. That way the parent of a child who is blind can read the same book out loud while the child reads with his or her fingers.

Using a motorized wheelchair requires the ability to operate the controls. But what about people who are not able to use their hands? One solution is to attach a tube to the chair. The person operates the wheelchair by sucking air through the tube or blowing into it. This is called "sip and puff" technology, and it can also be used to operate other devices.

VOICE TWO:

Things that are designed to help the disabled may also make life easier for people who are not disabled. The opposite is also true.

Think of the millions of people who send and receive messages over cell phones and other wireless devices. This ability to communicate quickly by text messaging or e-mail is very useful. But imagine just how useful it can be to a person who is deaf.

(MUSIC)          

VOICE ONE:

Many times, the technology that helps people with disabilities is invented by people who have disabilities themselves.

TecAccess is a company that helps government offices and companies provide technology for people with disabilities.

TecAccess has fifty-two employees. Forty-six of them have one or more disabilities. The company is in Virginia, but its employees work all over the world.

VOICE TWO:

A man named Don Dalton started a company in Illinois called Assistive Technologies. Mister Dalton became a quadriplegic in a swimming accident almost forty years ago. His company offers computer technology to help people with disabilities become more independent.

His newest product, in fact, is called Independence One. Once the system is put into a house, the user wears a wireless headset to control it. By voice, the user is able to control many devices and systems around the house.

Don Dalton uses the Independence One controller when he rides in the elevator in his office building. The system answers him in a woman's voice.

DON DALTON: "Wake up."
INDEPENDENCE ONE: "Hello. I'm here."
DON DALTON: "Elevator down."
INDEPENDENCE ONE: "Elevator going down."

VOICE ONE:

A video on his company's Web site also shows how Mister Dalton uses his voice to operate devices in his house. He can turn on the television, close a window in a different room, or work on his computer, all by using his voice.

He also uses the controller to make telephone calls over the Internet.

DON DALTON: "Start computer phone."
INDEPENDENCE ONE: "Starting computer phone. Please say login."
DON DALTON: "Login."
INDEPENDENCE ONE: "Logging in."
DON DALTON: "865-7004. Dial phone."
INDEPENDENCE ONE: "Thank you. Dialing."
INDEPENDENCE ONE: "I'm calling the cell phone on my wheelchair and it's ringing. [sound]"

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

In the United States, the federal government is expected to be a leader in supporting the use of assistive technology. For example, federal agencies are required by law to purchase or develop technology that can be used by all employees.

The government is providing money to research new assistive technologies. Loans are also available to help disabled federal employees and others to buy equipment. For example, a disabled person who owns a computer may be able to work from home instead of having to travel to an office.

Research centers are working to improve technology for people with disabilities. They are working in the areas of education, employment, computers, communication and community living.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Assistive technology can do a lot to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

That is, if the technology is available to them. Sometimes it can be very costly. People with a disability, especially a severe disability, have lower earnings and higher poverty rates than the general population. But government programs and private organizations may be able to help them get the assistance they need.

VOICE TWO:

Next month we have the fourth and final report in our series on living with a disability in America. Find out how recreation programs are helping people with disabilities have fun like they might never have thought possible. 

VOICE ONE:

And if you missed any of the earlier reports, you can find transcripts and audio files at voaspecialenglish.com.

Our program was written by Karen Leggett and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember with Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Learn with The News

  • Audio Group Claims Gender Equality Will End Hunger, Poverty

    A Christian aid group calls for governments and employees to end discrimination against women and girls. Bread for the World says increasing educational levels, giving women more economic power and helping with child care will help them earn more. This will, in turn, help men and their families. More

  • People hide from gunfire near church during firefight between African peacekeepers, fighters from the Christian "anti-balaka" militia, Bangui, Feb. 18, 2014.

    Audio Central African Republic Losing the Next Generation

    Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting in the Central African Republic, and many have been forced from their homes. Among the victims are children whose parents died or have gone missing. For these boys and girls, joining an armed group is one of the only ways to find protection. More

  • A protester stands with his hands on his head as a cloud of tear gas approaches after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Nov. 24, 2014.

    Audio New Violence Hits Ferguson, Missouri

    An American grand jury ruling has resulted in new violence in the city of Ferguson, Missouri. The jurors decided not to charge a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed African American teenager last August. The decision was announced Monday -- more than three months after the shooting. More

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (R) applaud Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the president announced Hagel's resignaton at the White House in Washington, Nov. 24, 2014.

    Audio US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Resigns

    Also, Iranian and Western diplomats shave extended talks about Iran's nuclear program; Russia's finance minister says the country is losing billions of dollars a year from sanctions and falling oil prices; and a Swiss museum says it will accept a priceless collection of long-hidden artwork. More

  • In this picture taken July 18, 2012, Zali Idy, 12, poses in her bedroom in the remote village of Hawkantaki, Niger. Zali was married in 2011.

    Audio African Union Promises to End Child Marriage

    Strong social and cultural traditions support the practice in much of Africa, although it is illegal. Early marriage compromises the right of girls to an education. It can also have a shocking effect on their health. The African Union believes it can end the practice within a generation. More

Featured Stories

  • Alzheimer brain

    Audio East Meets West to Treat Alzheimer's Patients

    But researchers in California say a new way of treating Alzheimer’s disease is showing promise for reversing some of that memory loss. The new treatment combines western medicine with eastern philosophy – ideas rooted in Asian religions. More

  • Mr. Van Rijsselberghe worked on the project with scientists from the Free University of Amsterdam.

    Video Dutch Experiment Grows Vegetables in Sea Water

    Due to rising sea level, farmers are increasingly unable to use fields close to the sea. A farmer in the Netherlands is growing small, but healthy and tasty crops in a mixture of fresh and salt water. Farmers in Pakistan may soon be growing Dutch potatoes in areas affected by rising sea waters. More

  • Jonathan Evans Performs with Bonerama

    Video With Bonerama, Three Trombones Lead the Big Parade

    The New Orleans-based group brings together funk, rock, blues and jazz, creating a gumbo for the ears. Bonerama has horns like many bands. But, unlike most groups, the trombone players lead this band. Reporter Jonathan Evans performed with the band and wrote about it for American Mosaic. More

  • A line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is displayed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

    Audio Lincoln's Words at Gettysburg Still Have Meaning

    On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said no one would remember his speech at a battlefield cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. But Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address remains one of the most important speeches in U.S. history. More

  • PLASTIC DREAMS

    Audio Surgery Safaris: Looking for the Perfect Body

    Many people these days are going as far as South Africa to get their version of perfection. People from across Africa and the world come for so-called “surgery safaris.” There are no animals to see on these safaris. The visitors instead look for smaller stomachs, firmer bottoms or perhaps new eye. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs