Written by Vicki Radford
This Christmas, there are likely to be many tech gifts under the tree; smartphones, headphones, game consoles. There will be cries of excitement and we’ll love being connected to people, music and videos but do we really appreciate how technology enriches our lives?
There are many Australians who don’t take technology for granted. In fact, technology enriches their lives by allowing them to stay connected to their loved ones and feel safe getting out and about in the community. Technology enhances the lives of people who live with a disability, offering them independence, security, connectivity and confidence.
Something as simple as being able to own a mobile phone can significantly improve a person’s life. The idea of owning a mobile phone is often expensive or daunting for someone living with a disability but the benefits that technology can offer are overwhelming. It’s amazing to see the improvements it can make to so many peoples' lives.
The Make A Difference Program (run by Community Connections Australia and Jeenee Mobile) aims to help people with disabilities access and use technology to improve their lives. The program donates free mobile services, runs technology training programs and provide continual support to people living with a disability.
How Technology Enriches Lives Of People Living With Disabilities
Walking to the shops, taking the train to a friend’s house or going to work are simple parts of our lives but to someone with a disability, the idea of leaving home can be a stressful exercise. With a mobile phone, however, a person living with a disability can now get out and about and do things on their own, when previously they would need to bring a carer or family member with them. Owning a mobile phone allows someone living with a disability to get outside his or her home and enjoy what life has to offer. Knowing that they can own a phone that they are able to use and may have been adapted to fit their own special needs, opens up many opportunities that were not an option before. The wealth of life experience is priceless to them.
Let me introduce you to Thomas. He’s in his 20s, lives in the inner suburbs of Sydney and has a learning difficulty and no expressive speech. Having no expressive speech has meant that Thomas was reliant upon support staff to accompany him wherever he went.
Thomas received a mobile phone through Make A Difference. He had his phone set up with ‘Tap to Talk’ – a picture-based communication application that he uses as a communication tool. Thomas uses his phone in a variety of ways. He now has a ‘voice’. He is also now involved in the decision making around his own increased independence relating to travel and leisure activities.
The fear of something going wrong when out and about is a real emotion for many people living with a disability. A mobile phone is a lifeline to family, friends and emergency services who can help provide assistance.
Here is Mary’s story: She lives in Sydney’s northern suburbs. She has a learning difficulty and sometimes requires additional support to continue to live independently. Mary uses her Make a Difference donation to assist her to travel independently and has also used the 24/7 HELP Service when she was unwell and required an ambulance. In one instance, Mary contacted the HELP Centre and advised the consultant that she felt that she needed an ambulance. The consultant called for an ambulance and stayed on the line with Mary until they arrived and then spoke to the ambulance officers to advise them of the issue.
Having a mobile phone means not only can people with a disability easily stay in contact with family, friends and carers, but they can also take advantage of new technologies including picture messaging, email and video calling.
Take Chris, when he received his mobile phone he had never used one before. Exploring his phone has been exciting and empowering.
Chris is a quietly spoken man with an intellectual disability. He loves animals and going on holidays with his family. His phone has opened up new worlds of experience – with phone calls to his family, especially his mother.
Chris now captures activities in his life through photos, which he messages to his mother. He takes photos of his holidays and is now able to show them to his friends at the day program he attends. Chris likes to know things. Using a weather app, he can now work out the weather in different places he has travelled to. Like other people in the community, Chris is enjoying having technology as it has opened up his world and allowed him to capture the memories and enriched his life.
Technology is something we often take for granted but those in our community who are living with a disability are now leading richer and fuller lives thanks to the simple mobile phone. Being able to be part of the world and experience life is a massive confidence boost for many young and old people who have never had a chance to get out and about into our community before. They know that they can lead a fulfilling life and now need to rely less on carers and their family. Their life really is ‘their’ life.
The Make a Difference program is a reason why Jeenee Mobile was created. Customers of the small Aussie Telco help contribute to the program that not only donates mobile phone services to those who need them but also runs technology groups to help people living with disabilities learn how to use technology. The Make a difference program also helps tailor services to individual needs so that everyone can enjoy an enriched life.
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