Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wink of an Eye

So many lessons can be learned from Star Trek.

Lately, I have been thinking about information I gleaned from an episode of the original series entitled “Wink of an Eye.”

My always helpful friends at Wikipedia provide this quick overview of “Wink of an Eye”: “Invisible ‘time-accelerated’ aliens take over the Enterprise and attempt to abduct the crew for use as ‘genetic stock’.”

Here’s a little more plot detail. The aliens (called Scalosians) kidnap Captain Kirk. These “time-accelerated” Scalosians move so fast that the crew of the Enterprise can’t see them (or the kidnapped captain, who has been “accelerated” as well). The only clue that the Scalosians are on board is a strange buzzing sound, almost like insects. Eventually Spock discovers that the strange buzzing is the hyperaccelerated conversations of the Scalosians. Spock accelerates himself, saves the Captain, and all is well until the next episode.

So what did I learn from that episode, other than that when you try to write out the plot of a Star Trek episode it sounds kind of silly?

I learned this: the pace at which life goes by and things get done can vary greatly. This lesson is especially applicable to those of us in the field of services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities.

In the past ten years, for example, you may have heard a great deal of buzzing around technology. Amazing advances in technology are changing the way we look at health care. Consider nanotechnology, which is revolutionizing medicine.  Or consider Imagine!’s very own SmartHomes, which incorporate cutting edge residential technologies that enhance the quality of life for clients, augment the effectiveness of staff as caregivers, and provide cost and energy savings for Imagine!. Technology is moving at the hyperaccelerated pace of the Scalosians.

Unfortunately, relative to the advances we’ve had in technology, public policy is moving at the super slow pace of the crew of the Enterprise when compared to the Scalosians. For just one example, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of states in the U.S. that have Medicaid waivers that specifically provide funds for remote monitoring technologies for group homes serving individuals with one or more developmental disabilities. We’re talking here about technologies that have been demonstrated time and again to be effective and efficient ways of monitoring. We’re talking here about technologies that have been shown to provide increased levels of independence and privacy.

And we’re talking here about technologies that provide better services at a lower cost. The same can be said for any number of assistive technologies that those we serve find difficult to obtain because of outdated funding mechanisms, rules, and regulations.

Considering the challenging economic times we are facing, and a political climate that leads one to believe that more funding for individuals with one of more developmental disabilities won’t be coming any time soon, it seems especially important that technology applications should be put at the forefront of all public policy changes moving forward.

It’s time for public policy makers to do their best Spock impersonation and accelerate to catch up with the Scalosians of technology.

Then again, what do I know?

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