There are a lot of articles on the Internet about how technology is the “great equalizer” when it comes to disabilities. I didn’t fully understand the degree to which this is actually the case until reading Norman Doidge, M.D.’s book, The Brain That Changes Itself (Penguin Books, 2007).
The book, for those of you have not read it, explores a variety of inspiring human stories about the brain’s plasticity, along with the results of some pretty extraordinary scientific research. As a case in point, on page 207, Doidge refers to a 26 year old paralyzed man who had a special silicone chip implanted into his brain and attached to a computer:
After four days of practice, he was able to move a computer cursor on a screen, open e-mail, adjust the channel and volume control on a television, play a computer game, and control a robotic arm using his thoughts. (This amazing story also appears in an article in the New York Times.)
While I would imagine most people with disabilities do not have access to such radical, experimental technologies, the communication technologies that are readily available are quite remarkable in their own right. From voice activated typing software to videoconferencing services which make closed captioning available, today’s technologies provide people with a range of disabilities with many effective ways to communicate.
Because it uses technology, distance mediation – even in its simplest form (for example, using the telephone to mediate) – takes advantage of the “great equalizer’s” capabilities by allowing people to participate in mediation with the communication technology that best suits their particular needs.