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Logo: Alliance for Technology Access

“We were emerging into an era that was really transformative for all of us, for our kids and for those of us with disabilities, that it really was going to change what life might look like. And the challenge for all of us was simply to imagine what an answer might be and then to begin to search for people who were approaching those similar kinds of solutions.”

— Jackie Brand

For anyone interested or involved with assistive technology a HUGE part of the story—history, actually—is the Alliance for Technology Access. For anyone new to the field, you may not even know about ATA or its invaluable contributions to so many people with disabilities and their families.

Today, after a Google search for “Alliance for Technology Access,” I got a URL that led to a blank page and a sadness that reflects an organic process that inevitably comes to an end as a grassroots movement morphs into something beyond a founding vision. Things change.

Now, with over thirty years in the field, I continue to witness rebirth, development, innovations, missions and an ongoing vision for accessible and affordable assistive technology. Today, the AT field has evolved and become professionalized which was inevitable and, for the most part, a positive outcome.

With some regret, however, I also watch as AT service delivery is now largely driven by organizational and institutional systems and models that fall short of the sheer energy and creativity of those early years when all one had to do was roll-up one’s sleeves and jump in head first—people with disabilities, mothers, fathers, grandparents, engineers, designers, and mom-and-pop innovators and entrepreneurs that built the AT industry from the garage floor up.

...continue reading "Alliance for Technology Access"

Illustration: keyboard with face

So we got thrown into the deep end like so many other families who in an instant are swept into the experience of disability—a child, a family member, or oneself. One moment you are in one universe and then the next you find yourself in another. Could happen at birth, after an injury or as a consequence of aging but there you are totally unprepared without even the words to explain what you are feeling.

It’s a much longer story but for now let’s stick to technology. As we reassembled our lives piece by piece it was technology that became the door for me to reach out to our daughter and find a way inside—a stable footing to be a father and have a connection with Eva.

As most mothers do, my wife had an inside track. Her bond with Eva was immediate and deep. For me, I struggled early on trying to find my way across a landscape without language. Unable to know what Eva understood, what she felt, what she wanted, I found myself in a land of trial and mostly error. As with most disabilities, to say one has cerebral palsy is like saying one lives in Los Angeles. It says something but not much of anything. So what did cerebral palsy mean for Eva and our family? What universe had we landed in and, for that matter, what dimension?

...continue reading "A Little History—Part I"

Photo: Eva Sweeney
Today, with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the social media of choice, the generational tech artifacts of blogs, email and, dare I say, telephone calls are all gathering virtual dust by the nanosecond. And so I tip my age with my first blog entry—an effort to think out loud about the current state of Assistive Technology (AT) in a manner informed by experience, reflection and an and an ever expanding curiosity about technology and its relationship to disability.

Why my voice? What’s to say about AT that hasn’t already been said? Where’s the added value that might warrant your time and consideration? Well, time and words will provide the answer to those questions.

I was first introduced to AT some thirty years ago shortly after the birth of our daughter. Eva suffered a traumatic birth injury resulting in brain damage sustained from a lack of oxygen over a period of several minutes. Six months later she was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy. Our world was turned upside-down. That’s where this story begins.

...continue reading "The Beginning…"