AT and Independence – What Does Independence Mean to You?

Click to share this on facebook.Click to tweet this blog post.

by Samantha Garcia, CFILC’s Office and Logistics Coordinator

In celebration of Independence Day, we asked some of our colleagues and friends to chime in on what AT makes them feel more independent, what they wish existed that would make them feel more independent, or even just what independence means to them. 
We loved hearing from them about the varied types of AT that make an impact on their daily lives! 
However you plan to celebrate, we wish you all a very happy Independence Day! 

Darian Smith

To me, independence means being able to do what you want, how you want, when you want, with little inconvenience to yourself or others. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever look to others for assistance, mind you, just that it’s totally fine to seek as little or as much assistance as fits your needs for the given situation.
Though I personally enjoy technology, and find that it can be really helpful in some situations, I find that I am just as appreciative of the low-tech stuff that I like to call ‘alternative techniques’.
picture of stylus and slate on a wooden table used to write braille
The slate and stylus are tools used to write braille

Things such as my cane, slate and stylus, problem-solving and people skills are things that have gotten me through situations where I didn’t have access to the technology that I enjoy, and they play a very important place in our lives.

When traveling, I could use a GPS; however just as easily I can and do use the environmental cues around me, as well as my fellow pedestrians to gain the information I need to get to where I need to go.
If I want to go shopping to buy ingredients for my favorite food or go and buy some new clothes, I often work with a personal shopper in the store. I work very closely with them to figure out the correct size of the item I desire, or to comparison shop.
If I want a reliable way to remember where my classes are on campus, I can slate the room locations and times of the classes on a 3×5 card. In this manner, I have a quick way to access basic information right in my pocket. 
However, please do not confuse me as a person speaking out against technology. 
The advent of the iPhone, for example, is a truly wonderful thing in that its out-of-the-box accessibility makes it a pretty amazing piece of landmark technology. So many things are available to you when you open the box and find that there are accessibility functions built into the phone. As well, there are applications that you can use to make your life a little easier and connect with so many people and do so many things.
The advancements in websites as it relates to their vastness of information is stunning. That said, there are still websites that are inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired. In addition there are technologies which are created in the spirit of accessibility but that are difficult to get a hold of and very expensive.
I look forward to the day when you can go onto a website and know that you needn’t worry about being able to get at the information on it. And I look forward to the day that you can go to the store and get a piece of technology and know that you can take it out of the box and learn how to use it independently.
I have heard from many people who are unable to use stoves and microwaves and ovens because of their inaccessible touch-screens. In fact, when I was in AmeriCorps, we were in a house on a project where the

picture of a standard microwave touch screen with raised blue dots making the microwave accessible for blind individuals
Example of a microwave made accessible for people who are blind

microwave and oven were inaccessible touch screens. This meant that I could not go and heat up my own food; I could not cook a meal by myself if I wanted to.

I had no problem with asking for some help in getting something heated up, but it would be nice to have the option to cook something when I wanted to by myself. To not feel as if I was keeping someone from something they wanted to do is an important thing to me. I also would love to be able to do something nice for my teammates and surprise them sometimes. 
In this sense, I look forward to the day when technology is brought forth to be truly accessible to all.

Damary Bustos

Hello, my name is Damary Bustos and I was born with Cerebral Palsy which affects my speech, walking and movements. 
I started to walk all by myself at the age of seven. Before that, I would use a walker or a wheelchair. Yet, I lose balance on my legs and I get really tired after walking 3-4 blocks; that’s why I still use my manual and electric wheelchair. 
Nothing is better than my electric wheelchair.  I feel very independent because I can go anywhere I want without waiting for someone to push me on my manual wheelchair.
Once when i was in middle school, my electric wheelchair broke down in the middle of the hallway and wouldn’t move at all. My friends swtiched it to the manual setting and then had to to push me to my classes because my wheelchair didn’t work anymore.  Ever since then, I realized how i depended on my wheelchair to be independent. I didn’t have my electric wheelchair fixed for about three weeks and I felt so bad because it was like not having my legs to walk. My friends would push me in my manual wheelchair at school, but it wasn’t the same. When i finally got a new electric wheelchair I was so happy to have my legs back! 

I use my electric wheelchair almost every day. I use it when i go to my college. I feel so independent in college since i can go anywhere on my own and by the speed that i like. 

I also use an iPad to communicate with people that can’t understand me. I use my iPad to do Disability History Presentations in high schools too.  I feel independent to have a conversation with someone without having someone translate for me.  

What does independence mean to you? Share the AT that keeps you independent by writing about it in our comment box and stay tuned for next week’s continuation of independence-themed AT!

Leave a Reply