Medical impairments are an unfortunate fact of life that cannot always be overcome. Amputated limbs, sensory impairments, speech impairments and cognitive disabilities are just a few afflictions that can greatly affect quality of life. However, technological advances that can lessen or eliminate the impact of medical impairments are becoming more readily available. Here are four ways that technology has helped the medically impaired live a more complete life:
1. Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Cognitive disabilities and degenerative diseases can greatly impact an individual's ability to communicate. Some individuals are unable to talk, hardly able to write, or may have difficulty communicating with sign language. Augmentative and Alternative Communications, or AAC, allows these individuals to communicate in a way that is comfortable to them. The tech level of these devices can vary.
Some AAC systems are simply pictures, code-phrases or numbers. Others are more advanced speech generating devices with a full range of functionality for voice, input, stored memory for communications and so on. Certain systems can even be programmed with inflections, a unique voice, and personalized effects to more faithfully represent the user.
2. Oxygen Concentrators
As a result of cancer or other lung issues, some individuals require concentrated oxygen in order to breathe effectively. Portable oxygen concentrators can be beneficial to those suffering from lung afflictions. They have multiple settings for oxygen flow in order to control power consumption.
These options are usually either continuous flow, or some variation of a controlled flow that synchronizes with the user's breathing. They are comparable to oxygen cylinders, though they are considered to be safer in regards to punctures. They are also typically allowed on aircraft, and can operate in variety of settings so that the user isn't limited to traveling in specific locations.
3. Assistive Sport Technologies
Assistive technologies in sports allows for the medically impaired to participate where they would otherwise be unable to do so, or be at a severe disadvantage. Runner blades allow amputees to compete in track events, or run for fitness and personal enjoyment. Specific wheelchairs can be designed for biking, basketball and so on. The benefit of this technology is two-fold; Not only does it allow for the medically impaired to take part in activities they enjoy, but it also provides therapeutic benefits.
Some individuals that take advantage of these technologies may be traumatized veterans, or simply depressed as a result of their condition. The ability to compete provided by these technologies is a boon to their lives both mentally and physically. Assistive sport technologies are also directly responsible for the creation of organized para-sports and the Paralympics. These institutions have greatly improved quality of life for those medically impaired that are more athletically inclined.
4. Home Automation
Medically impaired individuals can often find themselves in precarious situations with even the most routine of household tasks. Automated systems at home can greatly assist the medically impaired with their living conditions. These automated systems are related to a variety of tasks such as cleaning, cooking, entertainment devices or home security. Pre-coded messages can turn electronic devices on and off at specific times or intervals.
Voice activation technology can turn on showers, change TV channels or activate home security. Motion sensors can open doors, or trigger room functions. This functionality allows the medically impaired a measure of comfort in their day-to-day home life so that they may better enjoy other activities.
Technology for the medically impaired is constantly advancing. Along with these technologies, the fields of cybernetics, prosthesis and robotics are progressing steadily with their own technologies. The ever-evolving nature of science promises a bright future for assistive technologies and the medically impaired.
By Meghan Belnap
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.