The Logistics of Technology for the Handicapped
Impaired and handicapped people have a special need for modern technological products, but they have less chance of obtaining them than people without impairments and without handicaps. This poor access to technological products for the handicapped is true both of products in general use (e.g. cars, washing machines), for which they may have a greater need than the nonhandicapped, and for products developed for their special needs, for which nonhandicapped people do not compete.
Three main arguments defend this poor performance of technological provision in this country. Firstly, handicaps are only a transient phenomenon and will disappear with the advance of science and medicine, to which our resources should be diverted. Secondly, handicaps and handicapped people are so diverse and so difficult to identify that it is not possible to make satisfactory provisions to meet their associated needs, and any provisions which are made will be liable to abuse by pseudo-handicapped clgimants who cannot be distinguished from the genuine claimant. Thirdly, the provision of technology to handicapped people is too expensive.
The fallacies of these arguments are exposed for the following reasons. Impairments and handicaps are expressions of the ‘normality of abnormality’ in any human population; they will not yield to science and medicine but technological developments can reduce their disadvantaging effects on the affected individual. The concept of personal handicap is now sufficiently understood and its constituent handicaps and handicapping impairments suf-ficiently recognised for effective distinction between handicap and nonhandicap, and for effective analysis of the need for provisions of technology, cash and services to be made and acted upon. Data on the cost of making technological provisions is totally lacking; neither the numbers of handicapped people who may require the different provisions, nor the saving of alternative greater expenditure by correct choice and prompt supply of appropriate technological aids, have yet been calculated either positively in favour, or negatively against technological provision.
It is suggested that the development of satisfactory logistics (supply of the right thing to the right place at the right time) is as much the responsibility of the technologist as technological development itself. Failure to complete this final stage of a development renders all the earlier work valueless and therefore its cost unjustified.
KeywordsHandicapped People Personal Autonomy Technological Provision Free Supply Effective Distinction
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