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How Technology is Opening Doors for Social Inclusion

While many demographics have stood up and spoken out this past year, such as the Me Too Movement and the DACA Dreamers, one very powerful and relevant demographic still tends to slip into the background in today’s media. The disabled community is an ever-growing and yet ever-neglected population in our society. Time and time again, people with disabilities have been excluded and left out, even to the point of blatant discrimination. Today, tens of thousands of disabled workers are legally being paid subminimum wage, due to a loophole in Section 14c of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In extreme cases, workers with disabilities have been legally paid as little as 22 cents per hour. Discrimination against the disabled is both frequent and widespread, affecting the 56.7 million disabled Americans across the country. With an exponential growth in the development of new technological products, technology can and should be used to bring people with disabilities together, to include them and provide them with opportunities that they otherwise would not have. While some technology is used to advance science or businesses, many recent technological developments have been used for social inclusion, to fight the discrimination against the disabled. Here are some technological developments that have helped further advance social inclusion.

Inclusive Technology Co has been developing technologies and products specifically meant for educating children with special needs and disabilities. Recently, Inclusive Technology released the Inclusive ClassVR, a virtual reality headset designed specifically for the special education classroom. A virtual reality environment allows class lessons to be customizable, helping meet specific needs for each child, regardless of age or ability.

UCP Heartland Gibbs Center for Independence in Jefferson City opened its state-of-the-art location this year. Built specifically for adults living with disabilities, the center offers things like adult-day programs, residential programs and employment services. The center uses modern developments, such as eye-tracking technology that allow adults to nonverbally communicate with others in order to advance its goal of helping adults with disabilities discover new opportunities for their lives.

This week, Researchers of the Biomedical Neuro-engineering group of the Universidad Miguel Hernández (UMH) of Elche, Spain, developed a robotic exoskeleton designed to assist individuals with varying levels of disability. The developers created the interface to adapt to changes in devices, allowing the machine to change according to the individual’s needs. The exoskeleton can aid an individual in basic tasks such as moving around, eating, drinking, washing and communicating. The project began back in 2015, was completed this past May, and was tested this week.

The Disabled Community is a very large and often ignored demographic. The varying degrees of challenges that these individuals have, such as completing daily tasks, communicating with others, or expressing emotion appropriately, may seem easy to someone, but are extremely difficult to somebody with a disability.  As time goes on, we hope that developments in technology will knock down the walls of exclusion that have been so prevalent in our society today.