Fulbright presentation: University of Sydney

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs part of the Fulbright Specialist Program, Prof. Beth Haller of Towson University (USA) gave a talk called: “A Digital Media World Redefined by and for Disabled People: Representations and Access” on Feb. 13, 2015 at the University of Sydney. Haller was sponsored by Prof. Gerard Goggin, Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney.

An audio version with the PowerPoint is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcUo0SPHARk

The following is a transcript of “A Digital Media World Redefined by and for Disabled People: Representations and Access.”

Introduction:
Gerard Goggin: Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the University of Sydney and we are really delighted to see you here, thanks for taking time out from your busy schedules and finding the place, always a challenge particularly with venues and trying to figure out where the sign is. So, I’m Gerard Goggin from the department of Media and Communication. So it really is my great pleasure to host Professor Beth Haller from Towson University, whose really is a frequent visitor of Australia and its fantastic to see her back and to have this opportunity, which you know, you obviously value, we have people here today from varying diverse backgrounds working across a bunch of different sectors and different angles into this topic.

So before we go any further, I just wanted to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land in which the university sits, Cadigal people of the Eora Nation, who have been here for tens of thousands of years, with their knowledge, conversation, and learning. So we continue in that tradition respectfully. So we want to acknowledge the elders, indigenous people—past and present and I wanted to then try and give some context I suppose to Beth’s visit. We are really grateful to the Fulbright Commission and that great institution that links the US with other parts of the globe. Beth is here as a Fulbright specialist and supported by Curtin University’s Katie Ellis. Beth’s off to Perth, and then flying through Melbourne, so if you have contacts there and she’s got an itinerary so it’s like organizing a rock star’s tour. And so this is a real privilege for us, Beth really is the world’s leading expert on media and disability, and we are really grateful for her to come and to share her knowledge today and to interact with us.

[Brief discussion on bathrooms and breaks]
So without further ado, I will hand it off to Beth.
[Enthusiastic applause]

Talk:
Beth Haller:
O.k. Thank you all for coming, I’m gratified that so many people came out today, and so my talk today is based on some more recent research that I’ve been doing with a team in Canada and the U.S about how the media covers areas with people with disabilities, which is a more recent area that I’ve been involved with for now over twenty years.

And, I find it a very important issue, and here’s the reason why I feel this is a super important issue to deal with. The media, in my mind having been a journalist back when I was an academic, are people who can really define disability in a lot of cultures and a lot of societies. Especially for people who may not have much experience with disability, or met a person with a disability, or even know if they met a person with a disability. And also, their powerful agents of change, in terms of public opinion. So, that’s why I’ve dedicated my career to looking how the media are representing people with disabilities. You know, it’s been interesting to do this kind of research for so long, because I’ve seen changes so I wanted to kind of freshen up some of my presentations and do something about something were seeing very recently in the in the U.S and Canada and how people are being represented, especially the inner section of people with disabilities and technology.

So the first thing I would talk about is actually about language because coming from my perspective as an American and working with disability organizations in the U.S and also knowing about some of the work going on in Great Britain. I decided to throw the slide in first before I even start the talk, in case, I don’t want to be offensive though this is why sometimes I substitute a variety of different terminologies and there’s kind of this movement in the U.S now to reject people-first language by some of the activists. They say putting the disability first recognizes, affirms, and validates an individual’s identity as, for example, an Autistic person. Also, some countries, like Great Britain, never use people-first terms. There, disabled people is preferred. Because of this, I use many terms interchangeably when I am speaking and writing. And the term that I don’t really like that the media use is kind of this group term called “the disabled.” I call it the “noun-ifcation” of people because it takes all of the people out of it. So we can talk about terminology and things like that in the workshop after this, or when you have questions. I just kind of wanted to throw that out there on why I’m using some terms and not others.

O.K. so what this research has looked at is some of the media in North America was kind of jumping on this technology bandwagon, you know I’m not a spokesperson for Apple, though I do own Apple products full disclosure, we’re seeing this kind of narrative really pop up in recent years and actual words we’ve seen in the recent media coverage. Their talking a lot about the “miracle” of the iPad, or the “revolution” coming from this “i” technology, and like I said it’s great technology it’s really helpful to a lot of people. But the media seems to be focused on this kind of “cure” format that this “i-technology” is providing. So some of the words we found when we were doing our research were calling the “i-technology” words like: liberation, revolution, cure, miracle, and one story even called it magic. So just when you see those kinds of things, you’re like that’s not really the appropriate use of these words, it’s nice that this is a helpful technology but it’s also kind of taking the people with disability out of some of the news and it’s also being discussed primarily with people with communication disabilities. So a lot of people with communication disabilities aren’t even being talked to in a lot of this news coverage.

So the problem that we see with some of the news media are framing disability as a problem and technology as a solution. In my opinion, the media are discounting the role of people with disabilities in assimilating and adapting these new technologies into their lives and into their communication methods. To be that’s a really powerful, and I’ll talk about toward the end of my talk, it’s a really powerful kind of powerful story that they are missing because the disability community are going to become the leaders in my opinion on how to adapt the technology to really benefit a lot of people. The fact that the stories seem to be about this cure of technology and the discounting of people with disabilities is really a problem in my mind. So I’m going to show one little short/news story.

[Link to video or video can be seen in Beth’s Powerpoint]
http://www.ypayonline.com/ypayvideo/detail_videos.php?id=4rl6A7fbGhA&name=iPad%20class%20gives%20voice%20to%20kids%20with%20autism
It’s just a story, I actually found three stories that were headlined “i-pad gives a voice to kids with autism” so this is the kind of agency that they are giving to the iPad instead of the children, so just to give you a little news story about training both children and adults on the iPad.

[Video dialogue, “iPad class gives a voice to kids with autism”]
Rachel Canelli/ Video correspondent: It’s giving kids a voice, who can’t always use their own. The Buck’s county based “Autism cares Foundation” is providing iPad classes at Newtown Middle school for families of children with autism so that they can have a way to communicate and connect with their parents, siblings, and the world.

Karen Velocci/technology director: Their working together, dedicated time together with the iPad and the Apps to enhance learning and their visual learners so using the tool like this is helpful.

Ann Marie Milligan/ Holland: My older son, Jack is non-verbal and it has helped him communicate. It’s helped him in his life skills. He’s become very attuned to counting money, making change with money, and just being able to do things that will help him out in the real world.

Karen Velocci/technology director: Parents don’t really know what to do, so we help hold their hand and educate them so that they know what the iPad is, what its functionality is, how you use it and that empowers them to help use it for their child.

Joan Engle/ Warrington: We found out that he can spell, which we never knew. He can write and read words, which we never knew. So it’s increasing his vocabulary. He’s signing more and he’s trying to speak more and you can just see his self-image increasing because he’s happy when he sees his successes.

Ann Marie Milligan/ Holland: It’s really been a tool to improve our lives and his life.

Rachel Canelli/ Video correspondent: Now the Autism Cares Foundation offers other programs, many of which are free and their hoping to have their very own resource center, a facility which will have activities such as these so to find out more about that at, or to volunteer or to donate visit http://www.autismcaresfoundation.org/
[End of news clip]

Beth Haller:
So there good stuff happening there, in terms of training kids and parents on i-technology. But was there any person who uses an iPad to communicate interview in that story? No. It was very much from a kind of parent perspective, when it was actually a family class for everyone to learn about the iPad. It’s also this kind of “giving a voice” rather than acknowledging that the person has a voice they just aren’t using their vocal cords to communicate.

Just another couple examples of news stories: “App gives autistic children a voice,” “Modern technology gives Autistic children a voice,” there’s a lot of giving of voices for the iPad and my question is doesn’t a voice reside in the human, not the machine? And so I think the media has it backwards, like I said I’m not taking away from the technology I think it’s very helpful for a lot of people but the way it’s getting reported, it’s the iPad that’s the thing not the access for people with disability. And the fact that person with the disability is the one making their statements are giving their perceptive of the world through that technology. It’s not the technology that is actually communicating. It’s the person.

In the print news media they are also very much all about the uplifting narrative and talking about the iPad as this “cure” or “liberation.” So there was a story in a Texas newspaper, and the headline was “Teen with autism, mom communicate via texting.” And I was like “wow, a teenager texting. Why is this news?” It’s a very long story and it’s from 2009, she actually uses the word “miracle” because she could actually communicate with her son. She got him a cell phone and he was texting her back and forth and they were able to text. So you know this kind of, it’s the phone that’s communicating it’s not the son, or it’s the phone that “fixed” his communication disability. So I think there’s kind of a problem with that twist that the media is putting on this technology. So here are some headlines that tout this miracle, “Teen with autism, mom communicate via texting,” ‘Computer stuff’ helping autistic make connections,” “iPad opens world to a disabled boy,” “Special-needs kids get tech savvy,” and “App helps nonverbal users communicate.”

So those are just headlines and I will give you a few examples from some of the inside stories too.

We’ve looked into almost 100 news articles in our research looking at how this technology was portrayed for people with communication disabilities and more than half talked about this “i-technology,” as helping the person overcome their disability or overcome some aspect of their disability. Another 30 stories, iTechnology was presented as a superior replacement of previous forms/attempts at communication (30 stories). Another big category, people with disabilities are presented as needing separate services/education/programs rather than being included in the programs in which everyone participates (27 stories). What I’m talking about there is that a lot of the stories were set up in a lot of special education classrooms or special training programs like that news story as opposed to here’s a kid that uses an iPad with all the other kids that don’t use iPads, you know it’s an inclusive environment.

So a couple of examples of themes we looked at in the newspaper, so the Manchester, N.H., newspaper (2011): “Two-year-old Niall Murray presses a shiny red apple to his mouth, and his little tongue laps tentatively at the fruit. It’s such a small moment. But for his parents, David and Kathy Murray of Hooksett, it’s a small miracle. And it came about because of the iPad.” So the miracle of eating the apple via iPad. I think what they were talking about is that they now knew that we wanted an apple so I guesses he uses the iPad to communicate that but before the iPad existed in his life I’m sure he could have pointed to the apple or if he was ambulatory walked over and gotten the apple and eaten it. So the way this is being framed in the media is this kind of miracle technology, when I’m sure this two year old had eaten an apple before he ever used an iPad. So I think it becomes very problematic when the child or the adult with a disability is seen as an appendage of the technology.

Another example of a theme we found was this new technology as superior to older forms of communication, and financially let me give you some background about these communication technologies that have been used in the U.S before the Apple technology took everything over. There were, you know programs and technology, one was called the liberator that was from a company that was like a voice-box and that cost like 20, 000 dollars and you had to get it from a specific company and you had to have certain kinds of insurance to get it and it was super expensive, really heavy, and you had to mount it on a wheelchair, really literally probably could not carry it around if you were child who was on the autism spectrum who did not use a wheelchair. So the iPad is way less expensive, but there’s also a lot of low tech ways that people have been communicating with a long time way before any of the technology existed, which were just pictures, picture books, picture cards that they could point to. They could point to a picture of an apple if they wanted an apple.

So this is from a newspaper in Connecticut, ““McClafferty is in the final stages of developing an iPad application for ASD students, which will help with speech and language skills. ‘Typically, ASD teachers carry around a whole bunch of flashcards to help teach verbal skills. It can get expensive, and there’s really only one of each card in a deck,’ McClafferty said. ‘What I created on the iPad is a replacement for that with enormous flexibility.’”

So I haven’t priced flashcards recently, but I did price them when we were doing this research and even the top end of flashcards cost like 50 dollars we’re talking thousands of thousands of flashcards. So the fact that this news story is saying that flash cards are actually more expensive than an iPad shows that they also don’t understand what’s going on in the world. So I think that is another kind of issue, you know “it’s new, it’s better.” So they aren’t acknowledging some of the other flaws that I will talk about in a minute.

There’s also a problem of these stories being set in segregated settings because a lot of them are in special Ed kind of classrooms. So this is from a newspaper in Alabama, The News Courier, (2012): “Johnstone told the board she teaches special education students with moderate autism to learning disabilities. One student in her class is completely non-verbal and he was able to use the iPad as a communication device. ‘He could tell us what he wanted through pictures,’ she said. Johnstone said she was thankful for the opportunity to use iPads in her classroom. ‘The opportunities are endless,’ she said. ‘There is something to fit every need right at your fingertips.’”

So again here’s a teacher saying, you know she’s doing what she needs to do to try and tell the school board “we need more iPads in the classroom.” But again it’s in a special education, segregated environment and then like I said I will talk about how inclusive education would be and a much better place for everyone to learn about, even non-disabled kids who wouldn’t use the iPad for communication, it would be nice if they were educated about how people with non-verbal communication and disabilities are using “i-technology” to communicate because then they know how it works too.

The other issue with the segregated classroom settings is that in a lot of these stories, a big large percent of the stories were about how this educational use of technology for people with communication disabilities and that was because of the way funding works in the United States. It’s much easier for a child with autism to get an iPad than an adult with autism to get an iPad or an adult with downs syndrome to get an iPad. Why I think media framing matters, like I said, I think the reporting ignores the children’s already-learned communication skills, which are not perceived as “normal” communication methods. So you know it’s reinforcing even though people might say “oh, it’s so great that the media is cover this really important disability issue of technology.” Yes that is good that they are covering it but they are also framing other forms of communication as “not normal and we need to fix it with the iPad.” To be that is a bit of a problem too. It ends up having this rolling effect of stereotyping people with disabilities too.

Also the tablet/smartphone technology is credited with revolutionizing communication by replacing older forms of communication. Very few stories acknowledged multiple modes of communication beyond iTechnology. The argument in some news stories Stamford suggest that flashcards are somehow more expensive than iPads? And they are just not understanding that people communicate in a variety of ways with a disability or without a disability. So, I think that kind of giving the power to only verbalization via the iPad is problematic.

Another reason why media framing matters, many stories only covered technology used in a segregated setting such as a special ed class. No mention is made of integrating students with disabilities into the regular classroom once they have a communication method to communicate with their classmates. In an inclusive setting, all children, with and without disabilities, will learn to understand and respect multiple styles of communication. There’s a reality show in the US a couple years ago, I don’t know if you have the show here, “Little People Big World” it’s about a family of little people and one of their children is a little person. They did an episode where the father had started this organization to help, especially little people in foreign countries get adopted into families. This was actually an adoption happening in the US and this little boy who was a little person who getting adopted by this family. For some unknown reason, I don’t know why he was living in a nursing home, he was just a small child 6 or 7 and he was non-verbal but he used his eyebrows to communicate. And all the staff at this place where he was living had learned what his eyebrow movements, you know he was communication using his eyebrows and it was perfectly understandable to everybody that learned how he lifted his eyebrows to mean different things and then the people that were adopting him learned how to communicate with him that way.

People are communicating in all kinds of interesting ways, if a news story was doing it they would probably be like, “oh we have to get him an iPad.” There’s really not I think there’s really not an understanding of how communicate in lots of different ways.

So who’s missing from these news representations? It’s always great to see the media covering issues relating to disability but are they really covering the whole community?

So one of the people on the project we did well her area of interest was older adults who have age-related communication disabilities (from stroke or traumatic brain injury). There was one story, I believe that was about adults with intellectual disabilities and communication disabilities. It was about a couple with downs syndrome who had fallen in love and were using the iPad to communicate with each other. So it’s one of those feel good love stories with the iPad at the center of it.

But there’s very little mention of adults with disabilities. There were some stories, especially people that were occupational or speech therapists that were quoted in stories did mention that that the sometimes the “swipe” technology is not a useful technology for certain kinds of disabilities. Other times they also mention how expensive, one mother in one of the stories she had two children, one of whom had a disability, who said, “There’s no choice. I have no choice to go and buy an iPad. I have to buy diapers. I have to buy food. I have to pay rent. You know that is a luxury that I cannot afford.” There’s very little discussion, in most of the stories about the cost of the iPad for somebody who has no resources to purchase one.

Also, this was not part of our study but I went searching to see if I could find stories that focused on older adults who have disabilities and it doesn’t seem like the representation has changed. So, this was a story out of New Jersey and the headline is “Verona senior overcomes language disorder though technology.” So again, “the overcoming” and he has aphasia from a stroke so that is something I’m going to talk about too. How a lot of the “i-technology” is being used by a lot of the older adults with disabilities but those don’t make it into the news very much.

The reason children with disabilities dominated the news stories is because assistive technology can be more easily obtained in an educational setting. But still there is a big problem with how schools are providing iPads and other technology. For one thing, many times they shut down everything but the communications application on the iPad. So the kid might be able to take it home but all their able to use is the communication functionality. Their kid maybe they want to watch a video. Again, it’s this kind of narrow view of what communication is. That kid’s communication may be curating videos to show their parents—like “here’s what my mood is and here’s some videos I want to show.” So I think, in the educational speech therapy world a misunderstanding too of communication can be. So their getting this great technology and they are only able to use it in one way that is a very traditional kind of communication mechanism.

Adults with communication disabilities cannot easily access iTechnology unless they have financial means, and working-age North Americans with disabilities have high unemployment rates. It might be very difficult to get the money you might need to actually purchase this if it might help you, or to even just get online to access relatives and friends through other media. Older adults who acquire communication disabilities may be on a fixed income and have had their savings depleted by a medical event, such as acquiring a disability from a stroke. So you can go from upper-middle class to poor very quickly. A lot of people have to pay past what rehabilitation can give you. Ageism may be factor as technology developers focus on children and young adults with disabilities for new apps and technology upgrades, ignoring the unique needs of older adults. They don’t think about the whole group of adults with communication disabilities that might benefit from apps. And they don’t want to see the cutesy cartoon characters possibly. I think, thinking about ageism and ableism and technology is another very useful thing to see how things are happening with technology developers too.

Let’s talk about some of the positive stuff too that’s happening about how people with disabilities are really redefining what commutation means. What I have on the screen now is a woman named Edna’s Pinterest page. About a year and a half ago, I started doing some research and going to this aphasia center near where I live. They found out about some of my research and invited me down. In case you don’t know aphasia is a communication disability that comes sometimes when you have had a stroke. So it’s primarily older people but there are younger people who have had stokes. This aphasia center was actually designed by an architect who had aphasia so it’s really an interesting space that was designed so that everyone can see each other very easily. They have all kinds of different technology, photography, gardening classes. It’s all things to engage people. So they have gotten onto the social media bandwagon. It’s wonderful to see how their harnessing the more youthful kinds of media to kind of—it’s not really a rehabilitation it’s more like a new way to communicate and interact with family and friends. And what the director told me when I was first visiting the aphasia center, she said that a big problem is that sometimes a family member will reject them because they can no longer speak verbally. Because they don’t know what to say or do.

They teach them things like Facebook and Twitter and how to Skype. Just so they keep the contact up with family and friends. She gave an examples of this younger man, probably in his late 40’s or early 50’s, what had happened was he had to move back in with his mother. So his mother was treating him like he was 12 years old again because he had to move back in with her. Well then he got an iPad and he started learning how to communicate with the iPad. She [the mother] took a 360 degree turn and she suddenly she’s treating him like an adult because she saw, oh he’s adult because he’s using technology like other adults use. Suddenly he became an adult back in her eyes.

Anyway Edna R, so a year and a half ago I took a group of international visitors to the aphasia center so we are all sitting around introducing ourselves and Edna introduced herself though her Pinterest Page. So Edna’s aphasia had actually affected her vocal cords. So her vocal cords were never going to work again. She moved on to other forms of communication and got interested in Pinterest. Edna is probably a 50 or early 60 something African American woman who lives in Baltimore. I did not grow up in Baltimore. I grew up in Texas where western stuff is a bigger deal than in Baltimore; it’s more of an urban and east coast kind of environment. You don’t expect people to be into westerns. So she starts going through her Pinterest page and starts showing us things, pictures of her family and things she has done at SCALE. Then about ten pictures in she starts showing us these pictures of her favorite movies and TV shows and it’s all western and it just struck me that she would never, if we were talking verbally we would exchange niceties, but in like 3 minutes suddenly I know so much more about Edna because of her Pinterest page. I know what she is really interested because I now know some of the things we would have probably never talk about until we’ve known each other for several different meetings. This broke all my stereotypes down. And the way she was able to explain that these were some of her favorite actors and TV shows and easily like-minded people come together. That was another thing that the people at the aphasia center were discussing, when you’re using images to communicate, suddenly bridges are built very quickly. Because you see that they like your favorite movie too, oh you were in the Navy too? They become fast friends. All the other makers on how people get to know each other kind of fall away and this image based communication, and the media would probably not see this as communication. To me can be a super powerful way that people are really harnessing new forms of media to communicate with each other. Also it’s super portable. I will say this about the flashcard situation, what they are doing now the people from the Aphasia center that have Aphasia are working with local business to give the designation as being stoke friendly.

So if somebody rolls in with non-verbal communication, people that work at that business or restaurant will now be educated on how to interact with somebody. So they go in with their cellphone that pictures of every possible kind of food. Or they might even have the menu for the restaurant on their phone. They walk in and hand their phone to the waitress or waiter and say ‘this is what I would like to order’ without using their voice. Of course, a lot of waiters/waitresses are young people and so somebody handing them their cellphone with a picture they want to eat is actually again, is bridging those barriers and they will see and understand that they want a hamburger or fries. So I think there’s this a lot of this counting this visual way that people are now using and harnessing some of these social media forms to communicate. So I find it really kind of a wonderful outgrowth of a lot of the new technology. People just think, oh Pinterest that’s where people post aspirational stuff or things for a wedding. But I think it’s really interesting to see how people are using this visual medium to communicate in a very different way and a great way too.

O.K. so this is a new program that was developed by Israeli developers and it’s called the Olá Mundo. It’s almost like a family texting kind of technique. So there’s two kind of small tablets, but they can be customized for family communication. So you create the icons yourself and especially for a kid that doesn’t know how to type or write yet, it can be completely icon based. Yu know ‘three icons’ for when is dad coming home. They can ask their mom ‘when is dad coming home.’ It’s completely symbol based and it’s a remote communication within the family so the child and the parents and communicate. I just see it as a symbol based texting for children. Again, this kind of symbol based technology is a really interesting way that symbols are being harnessed for communication.

This is my friend Mac and he’s in Aussie. So Mac has cerebral palsy and he uses a foot switch to communicate. His mom taught him Morse code and he is a wheel chair user. In this image he has his foot with a little black band around it. So he uses his ankle to press against the switch to indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ and to type dashes for Morse code. Mac is fully included in his school. His mom has a blog called ‘Inky Ed’ and he has been fully included since kindergarten. He is now in grade 6th. What’s really, this is why I really dislike a segregated setting because Mac is proof about why inclusion is so important to kids that maybe have nonverbal or complex disabilities because all his mates and friends know how to use the switch. They all have been with them for school. His mates asked his mom ‘we want to swim with him.’ and they put floating devices on him. Same when he goes to camp when he does anything with his friends they know how to assist Mac with his communication and they know how to communicate with him. This is not any kind of non-commutation environment. Everybody is getting educated in his school His mom was saying that a couple years ago when he was in grade 3 when his teacher was putting together a kind of group project and so he had put everybody into partners expect for Mac. So Mac’s friends asked ‘why didn’t you put Mac into a group.’ And the teacher said, ‘oh Mac will be working with the teaching assistant of the classroom.’ And the kids started yelling, “that’s unjust!’ So the kids in this inclusive environment understand and one of the kids even wanted to partner with Mac for the project and they felt ripped off because they didn’t get to partner with him. his mom was telling me that when he started grade 6th a couple years ago, some of his friends weren’t going to be in his class so he was a little worried about that but during lunchtime he needs an assistant during lunch and the kids at lunch were yelling ‘go away!’ And ‘Mac’ was wondering ‘why do you want me to go away.’ But they meant his assistant. They didn’t need her around them. They wanted to have their lunch with their friend. And that’s the power when we embrace people with disabilities. Their friends, their families, their allies, everybody can start broadening their mind to the different ways people communicate. In my mind, people like Mac are going to be the leaders in the future because they know how to communicate in multiple ways.

A couple years ago, I had a fortunate role of introducing Mac to a friend in the U.S named Matthew. They came to a disabilities studies conference. And what I wanted to happen happened, they brought Mac and he go to meet adults with different kinds of communication methods. So Matthew is a professor at Northern Arizona University, and he teaches disability studies there. We believe he is possibly the only person in possible the world, we know he is the only person in the U.S who using a head stick to communicate. He uses it during his lectures too. He created this headset to communicate, that’s actually a bicycle helmet. He has a voice as well but he says whenever he teaches his disability study class the first assignment is that every student in is class meets with him one-on-one and learn how he communicates. So they can be very comfortable with his communication style from the first week of the semester. Again, having multiple commutation styles exposed to the rest of the world gets them to understand that commutation does not just come from someone’s vocal cords.

I will leave you with one last thought. A great new book just came out called, “Digital Youth with Disabilities.” By a Grad Student who is about to finished her PhD program, her name is Meryl Alper, and she does her research on digital youth with disabilities and her dissertation looks at a little about what I have been talking about. How children, especially children with commutation disabilities are harnessing these different new technologies they are being given and really kind of hacking them into different forms of communication that will benefit all of us. They will be thinking of new ways to communicate that the developers have never even thought of. The gaming community is another great wave of communication. Mac’s mom has always been very much in touch with the gaming community when she is looking for new technology to assist Mac. The joystick is still very important in the gaming community and actually there’s a group of gamers called the ‘ablegamers’ that has gamers with disabilities. For them access is everything. For them when you play a game you want everyone to play that game. You want it multifaceted so anyone can play it. Mac’s mom has always been in contact with lots of different game developers because she doesn’t want them to go away from switch technology or other kinds of way people might communicate. So, a lot of exciting stuff is going on. If we will start learning that people communicate in all kinds of different ways. People with disabilities can be the leaders in making all this new technology become communication methods for everyone.

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