Disabled Today, Superhuman Tomorrow

8th Sep 2014
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People with disabilities meet barriers of all types. Technology of today is helping to lower many of these barriers. Assistive technology, also known as adaptive technology, is aiding many of the disabled to access products and services that “normal” people use.

Assistive technology includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities. The technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks that they were formerly unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing, by providing enhancements to, or changing methods of interacting with, the technology needed to accomplish such tasks.

However, the perspective on accessibility and empowerment for disabled people is changing drastically. The focus uptil now has been to equalize; that is, using technology to enable disabled people and let them perform tasks that healthy people are able to do. However, the innovators are no longer thinking on those lines anymore. If technology can empower someone to do what a normal person can do, then can it not do more? This is the question that innovators are asking, and subsequently, developing products that enable disabled people to leapfrog evolutionary processes and do much more than a normal person.

Therefore, the disabled of today will become the superhumans of tomorrow.

We might ask, “Then, why can’t everyone be superhuman?” In this post, I try to answer this question.


disabled001

Disabilities or different abilities? (Image Source)Fear and Pain


Needle-fear-illustration

Image Source“No pain, no gain!”

The proverb holds true in every context and era. However, we all fear pain. Many people fear just a tiny needle, leave aside the complicated surgeries that might be required to make one superhuman. Technology is making needles obsolete, operations passé and doctors irrelevant in the coming future. Still, people fear technology playing around with their bodies.

Also, the physically disabled people already undergo a lot of pain – direct in terms of bodily discomfort and indirect due to inaccessibility and inability as regards day-to-day life tasks. The so-called “normal” people do not face these pains in life. Therefore, they either fear or do not want to undergo the transformations that might make them superhumans.

Change and Replacement

As the earlier point indicated, disabled people want a change in them and in their lives. They want to become independent. They are willing to undergo the change and struggles associated with that change. However, a normal person does not even think about a change in this respect.

Think about it – only a person with acute pain in the knee will think of a knee replacement. A person with no legs will think about bionic legs. A person with weak eyesight will think of spectacles.

We value our biological body parts much more than technology. Until now, most of the biological body parts were much more superior to the technological replacements. However, this fact is changing. Technology is providing far more advanced alternatives to our functional body parts. In addition to that there are many other technological attachments that can lead to capabilities that the normal human body can never achieve. Most of us are yet to acknowledge and accept this fact. And I believe that by the time we realize this fact, the disabled will have already made the leap to become superhumans.

Expensive

Most of these technological marvels that can make a person superhuman are expensive. For example, simple exoskeletons can cost $100,000 upwards. A wheelchair with added functionalities might cost over $10,000. For a disabled person, these expenses are priority. However, for a normal person these are nowhere in their mind. In fact, they view these enhancements as requirements for only those who have something lacking in themselves. These technological enhancements are not even considered luxury.

In the future, these technologies may become cheaper. But, the major question is, will our priorities and our attitudes change? Will we get a body part replacement instead of going on a luxury trip? Will we get a powerful bionic eye instead of buying a new car?

The priorities of normal people might or might not change; however, the priorities of a disabled person will remain the same. They would like to do much more than they can in the present. Therefore, the future positions for superheroes are booked for the disabled of today. This article in not meant to warn us of this future. This article is written in optimism of such a future where no one will be disabled; and those who are disabled will be the ones who are not ready to accept the change.

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