This is a prelude to my thoughts about the CSUN Assistive Technology conference this week. I find myself thinking about “assistive” vs “mainstreamed” — a point brought up by a friend who works at a VRS (Video Relay Service) company. A quick google search revealed many results but this editorial seems spot on.
As a deaf person, I use several “mainstreamed” technologies. When I was a kid, I had to use a TTY device to make phone calls to other people directly or use a Text Relay Service. To me, that was an “assistive” device. Later on, Wyndtell came out with a product where other people can exchange text messages. This was meant for the general population but to their surprise, we deaf people were the early/fast-growing adopters. That continues with the proliferation of text messaging nowadays. The same is true for video technologies. Facetime, Skype, and Google Hangouts are a boon for us. Glide, an Israeli video company quickly found out what Wyndtell learned — that we deafies were their fast growing segment to the point they created a position for one person to engage with us.
On the other hand, “assistive” technologies like captions on movies/television shows has moved into the mainstream benefiting non-English speaking people to learn English and being able to understand action on TV in loud bars. We can argue that Glide and other video technologies also encouraged that trend. Are we heading for a “singularity” as Ray Kurzweil predicted partly because of us people with disabilities? That would be mind-blowing :-)
This site shows few examples of “assistive”, “mainstreamed”, and combination of both. What are other “assistive” technologies for people with disabilities in general (blind, physical disabilities, etc) have or will become commonplace or vice versa? I will definitely keep an eye for that answer this week.