ICT is extremely important to thousands of people with disabilities in the UK today. From keeping them alive to allowing them to communicate with others, computers allow people with disabilities to live a normal life and still do the small things that others take for granted.
I am going to investigate Stephen Hawking and how ICT helps him in his day-to-day life. He is a British theoretical physicist with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). He slowly lost the use of his arms and legs and after an operation to overcome his pneumonia; he lost the natural ability to speak. This affected his work, social and personal life at first but ICT has helped him to overcome that. A computerised wheelchair, a computer system on the wheelchair and an electronic voice synthesizer work together to ensure that Stephen Hawking’s day to day life was not affected.
Hawking needs to speak with enough clarity for audiences to understand him for long spans of time, move throughout his home and his workplace, contact friends and access information on the World Wide Web. ICT helps help to meet all his needs whilst not putting any strain on Stephen Hawking.
For example, Stephen Hawking has a computerized wheelchair that enables him to move from place to place without the need of a helper. This ensures that his life is as normal as possible with Hawking not having to rely on anyone else. He is able to open doors and windows thanks to radio transmission built into his wheelchair computer, by scrunching up his right cheek. Being able to move around his home and workplace ensures that he can continue to speak in front of large audiences in the various colleges and universities across the world. For these reasons, the wheelchair is Stephen Hawking’s most vital piece of ICT equipment. The wheelchair meets a wide variety of his needs and he would not survive without as there are no alternatives that provide the same facilities and accessories as the wheelchair he currently uses.
Stephen Hawking also uses a high tech computer with internet access, built in to his wheelchair. The computer is controlled by Hawking via an infra-red ‘blink switch’ clipped onto his glasses. He is able to talk, compose speeches and research papers, browse the World Wide Web, and write e-mails through movements in his right cheek. A new computer is donated every 18-24 months by Intel with the latest one being donated in April of 2005 with an improved battery system allowing him to go 16 without the need to charge up his computer. The wheelchair helps Stephen to compose scientific papers, keep in contact with friends and family and browse the internet during his spare time thus meeting his work, social and personal needs respectively. However, I would recommend that Stephen Hawking uses a different computer system or buys a new computer on a more frequent basis than he currently does. This would ensure that he is technologically up-to-date with the latest programs, thus allowing him to extend his knowledge for his work. This would meet his work related needs better than his current system.
A special speech synthesizer is used that can either be controlled by a switch in Stephen Hawking’s hand or by head or eye movement. It was created by a computer expert in California called Walt Woltosz and named Equalizer. Stephen Hawking is said to prefer this program to others available as “it varies the intonation, and doesn’t speak like a Dalek.” However, Equalizer has since become out of date but Hawking is yet to find a suitable alternative. The program allows him to continue with his scientific studies, lectures and speeches and for this reason is extremely important as it meets all his personal and work-related needs. Stephen Hawking is extremely rich and could afford to pay a team of programmers to create a voice pack to his liking
In conclusion, Stephen Hawking would not be able to continue his life as normal without the continual use of ICT and this is true for thousands of other adults and children with disabilities. Computers and other electronic devices work together to help meet all his social, personal and work-related needs