The field trip to the clinic was wildly cool. I had no idea occupational therapists were makers—previously those seemed like totally separate domains to me. There’s a narrative in the technology industry that all the innovation is happening from startups (Capsule, Zocdoc, etc), but it’s actually coming from people like occupational therapists who are using technology intentionally and directly to improve individual people’s lives. While startups are optimizing for profits, health care professionals can (disregarding the insurance companies…) optimize for actually caring for people, often with much more innovative uses of technology, like some of the ones we saw.
I tried a variety of assistive tech devices tant the clinic: the head mouse for Windows, typing using the onscreen keyboard, typing with various alternative keyboards, switches/head control for iPad, the moldables, and more. For able-bodied people accustomed to the “normal” input devices, using some of this assistive technology devices can be frustrating, physically tiring, and incredibly slow—especially the more “basic” devices like the head mouse (which is coming natively to macOS Catalina, so it won’t cost $1k and require custom hardware anymore!).
This was a pretty unsurprising situation, especially after last week’s TED talk. Paralympic athletes are incredibly impressive athletes regardless of their disabilities, and often the discussion around them is so patronizing. The comment from volleyball player Eric Duda especially stood out to me: “I want to keep on being that [inspirational] for people.” At the end of the day, sometimes it’s more awkward & laborious to correct comments from well-meaning people than to grit one’s teeth, but it’s a burden no one should be forced to endure.