Assisted technology is intended to revolutionise the capacity of people with disabilities. Picture: SUPPLIED/UJ
Assisted technology is intended to revolutionise the capacity of people with disabilities. Picture: SUPPLIED/UJ

Bionic limbs. Exoskeletons. Stair-climbing wheelchairs. Eye-tracking. Lomak. Sip and puff. Walking-navigation apps. These are part of a rapidly developing and creative branch of what is known as assistive technology (AT). 

AT is intended to revolutionise the capacity of people with disabilities. It is part of the wider, all-pervasive Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is changing lives globally. But how can we ensure that it changes everyone’s lives equally?

Enabling potential

AT is about enabling people with disabilities to live their lives with less discomfort and to have increased capacity to fulfil their dreams, access benefits and open doors in sports, careers, education and more. It’s a field of intriguing and exciting ideas with the power to provide opportunities that, for many, could only be dreamed of before. 

How can we maximise the benefit of these technologies for everyone? The University of Johannesburg (UJ), as a leader of innovative academic thought in Africa, is asking this question as part of its innovative Cloudebate programme to interrogate the effects and demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The fourth Cloudebate of the year, addressing two aspects of this question, will be held on October 8 2019 – and everyone’s invited. 

The first aspect is inclusivity and opportunity for people with disabilities, and the kinds of new and revolutionary tools to enable them to participate more fully and comfortably in the life that most people take for granted. There are many facets to this: general societal consciousness and awareness, as well as issues relating to employment, sport, culture, government and – critically – education. 

Education is, of course, central to what UJ does. That’s why the second part of the Cloudebate discussion will focus on the ever-expanding opportunities in the classroom for people with disabilities.

Creating tomorrow

Our societies must create opportunities for universal progress. Our continent needs to be committed to an inclusive vision and address Fourth Industrial Revolution developments in all their aspects, for everyone. We need to examine our ability, willingness and determination to offer equal opportunity physically, educationally and economically to all who live in Africa. A key part of that is the necessity of examining the full extent of technological breakthroughs for those of us who face greater challenges. 

That’s why, if you’re affected in any way by a disability of any kind or have an interest in the potential of AT, or if you believe in the ethical issues at the heart of this question, you should join UJ to investigate the questions, the solutions and the possibilities by clicking into this Cloudebate. 

To join this Cloudebate on October 8, click here

It’s only through informed debate that we can all contribute to the future we want to see. In fostering curiosity, focusing on challenges and exchanging ideas on its Cloudebate platform, UJ continues to demonstrate its passionate commitment to creating tomorrow.  

This article was paid for by the University of Johannesburg.


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