Enabling Technology

Enabling technology is sometimes called assistive technology, although “enabling” is considered more empowering and is generally preferred. In either case, this technology enables someone who is differently-abled (“disabled” is preferred in the US) to interact more effectively with their world. For someone who is blind, JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is the world’s most popular screen reader. It was developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse. JAWS provides speech and Braille output for the most popular computer applications on your PC.

More recently, advances in technology have dramatically expanded the possibilities. Micro electrode arrays are being implanted in the retinas of individuals who are blind as delineated in this article. Companies such as Enabling Technology and AME Communicate are developing software and hardware to help individuals who are blind or deaf seamlessly communicate with others. The Bluegrass Center for Autism has implemented innovative experiential programs to socialize students who are on the autism spectrum. I find the MidCity Campus program especially intriguing. Borrowing directly from their website, one of the core components at <their> MidCity Campus is independent and semi-independent life skills training. Within <their> 7,000 sq. ft. campus uniquely located in Mid City Mall, children are prepared to develop the communicative, daily living and job readiness skills required to function as independently as possible. These skills are taught in a “school-like” setting and through community-based instruction that extends into the stores in the mall. The mall becomes an extension of the classroom where lessons are not taught in isolation and are more easily generalized. Dr. Manny Casanova, who partners with the Bluegrass Center is developing technology which may someday desensitize individuals on the autism spectrum to a characteristic destabilizing brain wave.

Ed Henkler serves on the Board of Advisors to COSY (Cognitive Operational Systems). COSY is developing Wayfinder, a software package that finds the location of a mobile platform.  One early product will permit an individual who is blind or low vision to navigate an unfamiliar building, without assistance or modification to the building’s infrastructure. Other product line extensions may prove beneficial to individuals with certain intellectual disabilities.

Ed and HHPS have an extensive network of key opinion leaders and technologists developing the next generation of enabling technology. Contact him with your questions and concepts.