Thursday, July 27, 2017

Future Language

Today, I’d like to extend an invitation to my blog readers to look at the future of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) from the Imagine! perspective.

For coming on two decades, Imagine! has preached the gospel of technology, arguing that it holds the key to I/DD services now and moving forward. We’ve gotten some traction in this debate, and have made some headway with our evangelism, but not nearly to the extent that we’d hoped.

Perhaps part of the reason for our struggles with sharing this message with a broader audience lies in the words we have chosen. To be blunt, “technology,” and its cousin “assistive technology,” come up short when trying to describe how we see the future of services.

So I’m making an effort today to be more precise with my language. While I will undoubtedly continue to use the generic “technology” in this blog and elsewhere, I will try to incorporate more specific language when appropriate.

Language such as:

Cognitive Prosthetics: these are devices used as memory or organization aids for people with cognitive challenges. Examples of cognitive prosthetics Imagine! has explored using include task prompters that support employment or assist in activities of daily living.

Artificial Intelligence: the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. An example of how Imagine! is working to incorporate artificial intelligence into our services: our collaboration with the University of Colorado to help “teach” Amazon Echo and Alexa products to understand non-verbal commands so even non-verbal individuals can take advantage of the amazing opportunities for independent action and environmental control these devices bring.

Augmented Reality: a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. The many individuals who are served by (and who work for) Imagine! who enjoy games like Pokemon Go can tell you how Augmented Reality can increase opportunities for community participation.

Virtual Reality: the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. We’ve been exploring incorporating this form of technology into our services from way back in the early days of Wii games.

We have to take the position, a collective movement, to commit an effort to re-imagine a world for people with intellectual disabilities. We can create a world full of opportunity because we embraced the four technologies above. Won’t you join me? Come on … use your imagination!

Then again, what do I know?

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