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Gratitude for Tech

In early November, on a lazy Friday afternoon at around 3:00 PM, my tech world blew up. The power went out in our neighborhood, and with it, my computer died. While I knew it might be repairable, I also knew this was not the first round with this issue. Getting it to the repair place would be one thing; the other thing was whether I wanted to spend the dough to have it blow up yet a third time. The next day I ordered a new machine. That machine arrived three weeks later. In the meantime, I was on my iPad, and had to deal with eye strain. 

This time I began to notice that I depend on my tech, and I need to use my Mac for work, and to do some basic tasks. I was in panic and upset mode. I think I drove a few people to collectively shaking their heads.

Technology is a gift, and a curse. As a society we’ve surrendered ourselves to machines with screens, social media, and a connected lifestyle. I didn’t grow up this way. As a kid I had to ride the bus to the library, have the librarian locate the proper microfiche, and then copy information. Copy, paste, and cut weren’t options. Research, advertising, and social connection were so different! Google makes our lives simpler. Yet, here I am typing this tech lament. Why? 

Over the past few months, I’ve ranted about issues surrounding disability, and how many don’t really get how we roll. What works for you may be a far cry from what will work for us. What works for one disabled soul will not work for another. This time it isn’t about cutting us slack: it’s about understanding our panic and why the loss of tech is different for us. For us, it can become a crisis.  

I’ve been thinking about this for some time now, and it stems back to childhood for some of us. It’s about parenting and beyond. 

There was a time in our history when a child was born, and the doctor sent the baby home with the parents to let them discover that “something isn’t quite right with our newborn child.” I was lucky because my parents understood what they were and weren’t seeing at six weeks old. In 2022 we understand what disability looks like at birth, and we’re aware of what it might look like in early childhood. This translates to being able to provide resources that will enable a child to succeed in school and in life at an early age. It also means that if tech is to be part of that process it can be delivered to them. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) can be structured for the the child to include needed assistance. (OK, if and when the system works well.) Providing reliable, accurate information to both children and parents is a huge portion of the process.

There is another part of the issue that isn’t tech, and it affects us deeply. It is about having accurate information for lifelong interaction. That information comes from two sources: professionals and parents.  

If someone is born with the disability, they are dependent on parents to lay groundwork so that as adults they understand their situation. If they become disabled later in life, doctors and other professionals need to companion with them to enable the disabled person to gain a complete understanding of what is going on in their mind and body.

The knowledge we have now, versus what the medical profession could have told me in 1970 when I was transiting the education system, has changed.  

I’m not here to talk about teachers. They are the frontline. I will say that teachers are there to teach. A checked-in parent can assist the teacher to ensure that their child is given the best possible shot at succeeding in life beyond the classroom walls. 

How do we help? I will spend the time here talking about skills. 

Do children have the study skills they need to compete in the real world? Are they given the chance to work to their full potential? For instance: a child with a learning disability may need to learn in a different manner than a child that doesn’t have that disability. The learning-disabled child may be very gifted, and need the stimulation of an Advanced Placement (AP) class in high school. Are they given that chance? Learning disability means that a person needs to get information into their head in a different manner than how they may be taught. Tech comes into its own here. The ability to hear the text read, to talk it out, and to even feel something might be options here. 

Processing disorders are common, and once it is understood that a student needs to think things through differently, it changes the game. 

Tech can be a gift. We can level the playing field with accessibility features that count. Audible, Kindle, Book Share, and other options open up the world to the visually impaired and people who deal with a variety of processing and learning issues. Now children who might have been told that obtaining an education beyond the basics of K-12 find themselves applying to graduate programs!  

What is understood now wasn’t understood when I was born. Back then my options were: learn to type and/or learn to read braille. Typing was the logical choice. Was I viewed as a higher education candidate? No, not as a child. As an adult that became possible. As an undergrad the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paved the way. I had readers that enabled me to consume volumes of information. They had eyes and could point out things I couldn’t see. It was the tech that put me on the same level as everyone else. The tech didn’t come about until my grad school days. Now, I can’t function without it. I am back at the crisis situation, and what it did to me.  

I think that this piece is more of a post about being thankful for what I have as someone with very low vision. While I can see a face on Zoom, hear the distress in a person’s voice, and understand that tears are coming, I couldn’t do it without all this tech. 

I did have a tech crisis, but today I’m thankful that I have tech at the ready, and that I can move forward with a more appreciative heart.

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