“a minority you can join at any time. ” This struck me, as I had taken a first year seminar on wheel chair accessibility at the UNC system schools, and my professor there would constantly remind us that we are all just "temporarily abled." Indeed, we will all eventually, if not through an accident then just naturally, lose our abilities to do what we consider "basic" functions. Our eye sight will fade. Our hearing will deteriorate. Our joints and muscles aren't going to want to make the same walks up the stairs that they used to. And so from this point of view I believe that enabling technologies are important not just for the blind or deaf or those confined to wheel chairs, but for us all--because we are all likely to join the "disabled" list at some point in our lives.
What I also liked about Bishop's talk was his focus on public service--that working on enabling technologies is a great way to give back and make some people's lives a little easier, a little more fun. This is certainly a worthy goal. When working on my project for the first year seminar, the class saw how grossly un-wheelchair friendly UNC-sytem facilities were. At some schools, the disability services buildings weren't even wheelchair accessible. This is why it's so important that enabling technologies work to make people's lives easier, because their lives are filled with constant challenges. And as Bishop enthusiastically reminded the audience, this type of public service can be a lot of fun. I loved his idea for a "create your own adventure" books--these could work well not only for young kids, but for aging adults looking for some excitement and fantasy in their lives. The iDaft game was also extremely creative, but also extremely useful.
What I'm wondering then is what will it take for enabling technologies to receive more support and funding? Do we think the engineers are going to need to show how it helps not only people with "permanent disabilities," but also the rest of us who will eventually become disabled in some way? Or maybe do they just need to get them into more schools so they can show broader ranges of success? Or will this have to be done one computer programmer/engineer at a time?