Haylie is an occupational therapist who understands the importance of encouraging people to live life the way they want to live it. She is the director of ‘Whole Therapy’, is an allied health provider who values people for their individual qualities, rather than only seeing them for their disabilities. Haylie is committed to the progression of the role of Occupational Therapists working in the disability sector, and maintains a close relationship with universities, as evidenced-based practice is integral for the delivery of quality intervention and the achievement of excellent outcomes for NDIS participants. Please visit www.wholetherapy.com.au or email [email protected] for more information.
The recent explosion of digital technology offers both individuals and clinicians opportunities not seen before. This technology, coupled with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides a unique juncture for people living with disabilities to have access to equipment and technology, that may not have previously been available to them.
As an occupational therapist, I am extremely aware of the value that digital technology can provide for people living with disabilities. Voice to text technology, Magnification Devices, Eye-Gaze, Touch Sensitivity – the options are endless and certainly not new to the disability industry. What is pivotal, is that we are starting to see these ever-evolving technologies infiltrate mainstream technology, making it more accessible than ever before.
Australian society is calling for inclusivity and equality to be represented in mainstream media and large corporations are now listening. Digital Technology that was once ‘disability-specific’, are now readily incorporated on the common Smart Phone or Table Last month, Apple’s Smart Watch released version 4, which includes an inbuilt falls-detector alarm.
For the user, it means that falls can be detected through motion sensor technology (the user does not have to be conscious to activate the alarm), automatically alerting up to three contacts. This occurs through GPS navigation, meaning that the person is protected outside of their home. The latest phones, laptops, tablets and watches now have Voice to Text technology, allowing users with fine motor or linguistic issues, to use their voice to send a message or email, expanding the horizons of communication for its user.
Allied Health providers are working with participants to use digital technology to bridge gaps in areas of communication, cognition and physical abilities to increase their engagement in their daily activities. Historically, access to digital technology has not always accessible due to limited funding schemes, significant expense, and strict accessibility criteria.
The NDIS is now allowing greater opportunities for people to access equipment and technology, suitable for their individual needs. This is complemented by the transition of specialist technology into mainstream technology, so access is now available for almost everyone.
Although there are funding restrictions for tablets (as a general rule), funding is still available for other streams of digital technology. In my experience, NDIS recipients often have a limited understanding of the latest digital technology and how they can access it. Many people are also unaware that they may be eligible for specialist training on how to use it.
The evidence suggests that the success of the user is dependent on the service providers knowledge and understanding, solution-focused thinking, and likelihood to incorporate skill building into sessions. This is an exciting time for service providers and participants to work together and really understand digital technology.
To get the most out of your NDIS plan, Haylie’s Hot Tips are:
- Talk to NDIS registered providers such as Lifebridge Australia and go through your plan with them. This allows them to see what your goals are and what has been specifically allocated in your plan.
- Make sure you are working with someone who is well versed in the latest products and digital technology, this is a part of their job so don’t be afraid to test their knowledge!
- Remember that mainstream technology may not be fundable through NDIS, however you may be able to utilise your funding to build your skills on how to use common devices, purchase Applications, or for training on how to customize or adapt your device.
- Work with what you have. The average Smart Device can be altered to have built in magnification, colour contrasting screens, slower touch responsiveness and voice recognition to operate the device.
I am excited to see where this digital age will take us, and how people living with disabilities should no longer feel marginalised when it comes to digital technology. It leaves me to wonder where the future will bring other industries and how they can choose to promote inclusivity by making ‘accessibility’ the new mainstream.
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