A little technology, a lot of independence

With the recent passing of world-renowned physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, there have been many very interesting interviews on CBC Radio over the last few days. One of them was Tuesday, March 20 on The Current.

Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed Gary Birch, the Executive Director of the BC-based Neil Squire Society. For more than 30 years, this society has been the only national not-for-profit organization in Canada empowering Canadians with disabilities through the use of computer-based assistive technologies, R&D and employment programs. Their motto is “a little technology, a lot of independence.” CBC Radio has also been working with the society to make broadcasts more accessible to all.

The interview focused on Professor Hawking’s use of technology and the unfortunate reality that many Canadians with disabilities are unable to access the assistive technology they require to live full and productive lives.

Stephen Hawking was very fortunate — he was extremely well connected. The latest updates to his speech synthesizer were performed by a team of technologists from Intel. One of them flew from the US to Cambridge to spend a full week with Professor Hawking. This must have been a very expensive upgrade.

Most disabled Canadians lack the financial resources of Professor Hawking. Now would be a great time for the federal government to create a national technology fund for Canadians for disabilities.

The money required for such an initiative should be seen as an investment as opposed to an expense. An investment that will help to ensure disabled Canadians are full, contributing members of society.

Technology is the key that will open the door.


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