SCIENCE, TECH CAN IMPROVE LIVES OF SPECIALLY-ABLED
The National Science Day is being celebrated every year on February 28 all over India to commemorate the invention of the Raman Effect by the Indian physicist Sir Chandrasekhar Venkata Raman on the same day in the year 1928.
For his great success in the field of science, Sir Raman was awarded and honoured with the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 1930. Besides, the National Science Day offers an opportunity to widely spread a message about the significance of scientific application in the daily life of people.
The theme for the National Science Day 2017 is “Science and Technological Solutions for Specially-Abled Persons”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in a 2011 study estimated that 15.3 per cent of the world’s population deals with some or the other kind of disability. In India there are more than 27 million people have a physical or mental challenge.
As per the 2011 Census, the total disabled population is 12, 44,402, registering a growth of 21.84 per cent during the decade. The percentage of the State’s disabled population to total population has increased from 2.78 in the 2001 Census to 2.96 in the 2011 Census. It is revealed from the disabled data that the highest percentage of disabled persons in Odisha is found in the age group 10-19 years (15.09 per cent) followed by the age group 20-29 (13.34) while 4.03 per cent of the disabled persons are reported in the age group 0-4, 6.69 per cent in the age group of 5-9, 12.22 per cent in the age group 30-39, 11.75 per cent in the age group 50-59, 12.69 per cent in the age group 60-69, 9.28 per cent in the age group 70-79, 3.54 per cent in the age group 80-89 and 0.88 per cent in the age group of 90 and above. It is revealed that the disabled persons are found more in the medium age group compared to child and older age groups.
India passed a law for equal opportunities and rights for persons with disabilities in 1995. The Odisha State Government has also enacted Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, Protection of right and full participation) Odisha Rules, 2003. However people with disabilities still face numerous challenges.
In recent decades, new technologies have a dramatic impact on the way we live. Not only have new innovations transformed the way we communicate with one another, but they’ve also had a transformative effect on how we go about our daily routines. However, those with disabilities often find it difficult to operate technologies in the way able-persons do. But there have been a wide range of innovative methods aimed at making these technologies more accessible.
The disabled students have long been subject to inadequate and unequal educational opportunities. But the rapid development and application of computer-based technology has created a large change in available options for disabled students. Computer programmes have been designed to make it easier for disabled students to communicate their ideas and work.
There are examples of a number of advanced technologies which helped the persons with disability to prove their talents. World-famous genius Stephen Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and has almost no ability to move or speak on his own. Instead, he uses speech-generating technology in which computer software translates what he types on a keyboard (which he can do only with small physical movements of two fingers or his cheek) into a synthesized voice. In addition, the computer software includes auto-correct, so that he only needs to type a few letters before the computer recognizes and types out the entire word for him. Stephen Hawking is one of the best examples of how assistive technology has changed education without which Hawking would not have been able to make his major contributions to our understanding of the world, and students would not be able to learn from him.
There are technologies for every category of disability. Students dealing with blindness/visual impairment, or with physical limitations that prevent them from typing on a keyboard, can use text-to-speech devices (mobile and otherwise) to compose their assignments. When using these programmes, students speak into a microphone, which then translates their words into typed documents. This kind of assistive technology helps students with visual impairments by allowing them to listen to the text that appears on a computer screen. This is a huge improvement over Braille because once the programme is installed on the computer it can read anything on the screen with no waiting for a Braille translation. This enables students to participate in online activities, use email and text, and have immediate access to course materials.
An increasing number of people with disabilities are participating in sports, leading to the development of new assistive technology. Assistive technology can enable sports enthusiasts who have disabilities to play. The technology may be used in disabled sports, where an existing sport is modified to enable players with a disability to participate; or, assistive technology may be used to invent completely new sports with athletes with disabilities exclusively in mind. Assistive technology for sports may be simple or advanced. Accordingly, assistive technology can be found in sports ranging from local community recreation to elite Paralympic games. Some of the assistive devices currently available for different impairments are mobility impairments like light-weight wheelchairs for basketball, tennis, and racing, gym equipment that lets users stay in a wheelchair while using arm exercise machines and sport wheelchair etc.
Technology can help all kinds of user groups irrespective of their ambulatory conditions or any other impairment. Technology, and making the benefits of technology accessible, is an essential component to realising the rights of persons with disabilities and ensuring they are included in development. The Smart City Bhubaneswar should be more inclusive for every citizen and the benefits of technology need to be translated into an inclusive development agenda to offer a better life to the specially-abled persons.