Breaking down the barriers
I remember when I first started losing my vision. The amount of available gadgets to help keep me as independent as possible was amazing. And if I thought this was wonderful, the progress in technology during the past 20 years has been mind-blowing. There are smart phones and smart tablets with apps that can do everything from reading a menu to finding a destination.
Unfortunately, such technology can come with quite a hefty price tag and for some people these costs can be their biggest barrier. However, the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) comes with a promise of breaking down such barriers.
As many people with disabilities know, access to information through communications technology is a vital part of participation as well as keeping people connected to various basic life needs.
Shopping is no longer a challenge as it can all be carried out online. Furthermore, there are many and varied educational opportunities available through distant learning. But technology does not only include access to information and services. It also assists people with keeping in touch and supporting each other through social media.
Funding for equipment
Up until now funding for computers, adaptive equipment and such has been scarce and hard to get. As a vision-impaired writer most of my own adaptive tools have come through JobAccess, a federal government program designed to support people with disabilities to find and maintain work.
I recall, several years ago applying for a laptop. I used to spend many hours on public transport getting to and from interviews and work assignments. A laptop that had a voice activation program would let me be more productive. The idea was rather than staring out the window of the train, I could transfer my notes from my recorder to my computer.
JobAccess denied my first application. But I was determined. After much more thought and consideration I reapplied. Within just a few days, I was granted $1500 for the purchase of a laptop I could download my voice program onto. The benefits were massive.
In this day and age, a smart phone or tablet can do the same thing for a fraction of the price.
Improvements under the NDIS
With the NDIS designed to find solutions for many barriers restricting people with disabilities, many interest groups are currently lobbying for more mainstream solutions such as smartphones and tablets to be considered under the scheme.
Blind Citizens Australia is one such group calling for mainstream solutions to be available under the NDIS.
The NDIS is designed to consider every aspect of a person’s life and put supports in place to address the barriers that the participant may be facing. The scheme also has the ability to consider mainstream solutions which was not possible under previous arrangements, says Lauren Henly, National Policy Officer for Blind Citizens Australia.
Lauren says access to a smartphone can make a difference to a person with a disability.
It has the ability to provide a person with access to the internet and telecommunications as well as act as a colour sensor, barcode scanner, money identifier, voice recorder and much, much more.
Lauren says Blind Citizens Australia is encouraging its members to consider all options.
We would encourage members to start thinking of the full range of options that are available to them under this new scheme and not to simply settle for the services that were available under previous arrangements.
A way to a better future
Up until know, it has been a matter of being aware of your needs, knowing what’s available and then where to go to get it. And it’s also about being able to afford it when you get there. The NDIS promises to help with all this.
Many gadgets can help break down the confronting barriers for people with disabilities. And so, lead to more independence and a much better quality of life.