What has made earth's brainchild Stephen Hawking what he is today? His brains of course, but also the gizmos that help him over come his limitation and put forth his complex theories; that help him work.
Disability is a challenge. Let's face it. And we'll find the challenge much easier to meet when armed with technology.
That's exactly what the Spastic Society of India strives to do. Its vocationally training unit, the National Job Development Center, has found that students find greater employment opportunities when trained in computers.
The industry, in the mean time, has to make a conscientious effort to source the special technology for their 'special' employees, there by making it affordable for prospective employers while providing the vital employment that the physically challenged seek.
Providing the necessary information for sourcing assistive technology is www.abledata.com. Sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, US Department of Education, Abledata.com addresses the needs of both individual and industry. Abledata's mission is to provide information on assistive technology and rehab equipment available across the globe.
Abledata claims to have information on over 27,000 assistive technology products, from white canes to voice output programs, of which 18,000 such products from over 2000 companies are currently available.
Impressive, right? But that's not all. The site gives you a detailed description of every product, including price (in US dollars), name and address of manufacturer and even the website link. However Abledata.com is emphatic in saying that it does not manufacture or sell or distribute any of the assistive technology products. It is a mere information source on the assistive technology.
Abledata.com is powered by a database search, where one can search, free of charge, for information on different models of a specific device, or for products that address a functional need. For the further convenience of the browser, Abledata.com offers five search options--by keyword or phrase, by brand name, by manufacturer or distributor name, by product type or by the Boolean search, which tailors your search to specific needs. Since I was a first timer to the site and not quite sure about what to look for, I chose to search by product type. Which I must say is simple and comprehensive and gives you a w-i-d-e picture of the Abledata product gallery.
By professional default, I checked out the computer product catalog for the physically challenged which proved to be an amazing array of gizmos. Computer accessories include arm support, audio-cassette computer training, Braille computer training, to name a few. Software included those for motor disability access and sensory disability access.
The hardware line-up was impressive what with computers for physical therapy case management, computers with wheelchair interface, voice output computers, Braille labeled computers disks etc. There are hi-fi keyboards--ones with audible keyboard signal, Braille keyboards, remote keyboards, voice input keyboards etc. What captivated me most was the foot operated mouse and the voice input mouse, not to forget the Braille printer and speech synthesizer.
Abledata.com provides you with links to various other sites where you can search for information on general disabilities and find links for specific types of assistive technology. The Reading Room at abledata.com boasts of a library especially on assistive technology, news, and conference information. Abledata.com also has a classifieds section, where you can buy and sell assistive technology products.
Abledata may gives us premier information on assistive technology, but unless the industry chips in for sourcing special technology, the potential of our physically challenged fraternity will remain untapped. And we stand to lose out on what could be India's answer to Stephen Hawking!