What have we studied that was interesting to you?
Of all the things we’ve studied in the course, the individual human stories were the most interesting. Reading about the daily struggles of real people was enlightening. I was grateful that they did a wrap up of how things were going for each of the people profiled. It was sobering to see that in so many cases, the individuals didn’t survive. I’ve mentioned earlier in this course that the mainstream media has conditioned us to believe in the myth of the noble disabled person who overcomes all the odds. Forrest Gump becomes a billionaire and Rudy gets to play in the big game. That’s not the reality for the disabled. Their accomplishments are much less cinema worthy and they don’t always come out on top.
What new things have you learned?
The idea of assistive technology abandonment was a new concept for me. It is still mystifying to me that most assistive technology devices go unused. With all the professionals involved, it seems that there should be a higher success rate. Because so many of these devices are purchased with government funding, instead of making it harder for clients to replace their equipment, I would love to see the government spend more time matching the solution to the client. I suspect that if there were a more structured onboarding period, the government would save money by finding out early that a particular piece of AT doesn’t work.
How has your learning affected preconceptions or misconceptions you brought with you into class?
This class introduced me to the process of acquiring accommodations for a student. I didn’t know anything at all about how that worked before this class. I was surprised by how involved it is. For kids with “hidden” disabilities like ADHD, I knew there was a lot of red tape and that parents had to provide medical documentation to support their request for assistance. I always thought this was to prove that the child had a genuine problem. When I learned that kids with “visible” disabilities had the same process, I was a little confused. Still thinking of the IEP process to justify assistance, I didn’t understand why a child with cerebral palsy would have to go through this process. I didn’t understand that the IEP process is designed to help determine the specific types of supports that are a good fit for the child. I’d also never given thought to things like adapting the support to fit the nature the classroom community and activities.
How does your learning affect your view of the world and the universe?
There was a quote in one of the recent chapters that “everyone uses technology for assistance.” When you think about it, cars, bikes, even shoes are types of assistive technology. Anything that allows you to extend your physical functionality is a form of assistive technology.
Here in Seoul hills and stairs are a daily trial. Restaurants and offices are often on the 3rd or 4th floor of a building. Elevators in the university area are rare. It’s been a struggle for me to get around. I noticed that the elderly people here have adapted to the hilly terrain. Instead of using walking canes, the seniors here use high tech hiking gear. They wear hiking boots and use spring-loaded hiking poles to navigate the uneven sidewalks. I convinced myself that I didn’t need anything like that, but my knees disagreed. I broke down and got the poles. My quality of life improved right away. I’m able to get off buses more easily and as a result, I’m willing to get out and explore more. I also find that I have more energy and have even started getting out at night. This course made me realize I was being dumb by not taking advantage of tools and technology. Obviously, my situation is not as severe as the cases we’ve studied this term. Still, this course helped me understand how many people don’t have the means to acquire the supports they need. I gained perspective and empathy.
Will what you have learned change your behavior in the future?
Yes. Going forward, I want to always make sure that I consider the needs of people with disabilities in any products I design. I want to make sure that the products I develop can be integrated into various formats and applications. Because my goals are related to language learning, I’ve developed an interest in non-spoken language. It never occurred to me that someone who doesn’t speak, might still want to learn another language. I also never had the idea that the same principles used to design language learning might also be used to develop communications tools for those who do not speak. I’d like to explore developing products to address these new interests.