A STUDY INTO THE FOUR PRIMARY FORMS OF DISABILITIES

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Deafness or hearing loss is a global problem. According to the World Health Organisation, there are at least 42 million people in the world over the age of three years with at least moderate hearing disability. In Singapore, approximately 6 out of 1000 Primary One students each year are diagnosed to have hearing loss (>30db).

'Deafness' is a hearing loss which makes it impossible to understand speech through hearing alone, even if a hearing aid is used. Usually, an alternative mode of communication is required in order to communicate with a deaf person (example, lip-reading, signing, demonstration or written messages). Deafness in children can be attributed to two causes: congenital or acquired. A typical congenital situation consists of prenatal causes which affect the baby before birth, such as:

Rubella, hereditary congenital abnormalities and other causes which can affect the baby during or immediately after delivery;

Premature, oxygen deprivation. Acquired or post-natal causes occur after childbirth.

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Major examples include severe jaundice and meningitis. It also includes potentially treatable causes such as fluid in the middle ear.

Blindness (Visual Impairment)

The definition of blindness varies from 'total lack of sight' to definitions such as 'those people who require social services as a result of their vision problems'. Thus there are varying degrees of vision impairments. Some of the more commonly referred to types of vision impairments may be described in the following test.

An athlete standing 2 metres away from a coach may see:

The coach but not the features around them - Tunnel vision or Loss of Peripheral Vision.

A dark area surrounded by peripheral objects such as trees - Loss of Central Vision.

A blurred object - Blurred Vision.

Only light, with little or no visual acuity - Light Perception.

Only darkness - Total Blindness.

Intellectual Disability (Learning Disabilities)

The most widely accepted definition of intellectual disability is that produced by the American Association of Mental Retardation (AAMR). A person with an intellectual disability, as defined by the AMMR, must have:

A significantly sub-average general IQ. The AMMR defines this as an IQ of 70 or less on a standard measure of intelligence.

Limitations in two or more of the following adaptive skills: communication, self-care, home living, social skills, community use, self-direction, health and safety, functional academics and leisure and work.

Acquired their condition before 18 years old.

Physical Disability

Some of the more common conditions which may result in individuals being eligible to compete as wheelchair athletes include:

traumatic paraplegia and quadriplegia (ie spinal cord injuries)

spina bifida

poliomyelitis

amputees (particularly double leg amputees)

cerebral palsy

all non ambulant les autres athletes

MEDIA INTERACTION

Digital content does not ensure access to instructional material by individuals with cognitive disabilities. Because of the broad number of disorders within the classification of cognitive disabilities, identifying the barriers these individuals encounter while interacting with digital content is difficult. Cognitive disabilities include developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, autism syndromes, and neurological impairments. Within each of the disorders is a range of severity; some students require assistive technology to access digital content and others are able to access digital content independently. This review of research identifies barriers that students with cognitive disabilities encounter while using digital media and provides examples of opportunities to maximize their learning.

The ease in transforming digital media allows for multiple methods of presenting the information for students with cognitive disabilities, providing alternatives to reading (Rose & Meyer, 2002). Screen readers allow textual information to be read aloud for auditory learners or struggling readers. Videos can explain concepts across all grade levels and content areas, and are available at no cost to teachers through such social networking websites as School Tube, Teacher Tube, and YouTube. Schools also can purchase such video databases as School videos, which provide videos on a variety of topics for download and use in classrooms. Many organizations have created free animations that are accessible online to promote student interest in learning more about specific topics (e.g., animated demonstrations of how planets rotate around the sun or of the water cycle). Museums are also developing free interactive content for a variety of topics. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City has interactive animations that allow students to become a part of an immigrant's life.

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The flexibility of digital media provides learners many ways of interacting with material. One approach provides links to different options for interacting with material, thus allowing students to select the content that best matches their learning strengths, styles, or purpose. Some individuals prefer to manipulate animations, while others may prefer learning through games. The variety of available choices, however, can overwhelm individuals with cognitive disabilities.

A major barrier to students with cognitive disabilities using digital media is the potential of becoming lost within the lessons. Navigating problems can be attributed to cognitive confusion, as students with disabilities attempt to sort through the possible links to create their own learning pathways. Part of their difficulty lies in an inability to process visual cues related to navigation. These students fail to recognize visual cues, because they are unable to process the meaning of such cues as the cursor changing from an arrow to a hand to indicate a hyperlink or the greying-out of buttons to indicate a disabled feature. These students also struggle to process poorly designed interfaces with multiple windows containing complex or cluttered displays. Students with memory deficit problems may experience cognitive overload while trying to interpret sequential operations that cause them to click the wrong links. Other students with memory perception or reflex problems become confused when deciding whether to use the right- or left-click buttons on the mouse.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR THE DISABLES

Assistive Technology for the Disabled reveals some of the assistive technology that is available to smooth over some obstacles and allow the disable to have a better quality of life. Unlike what some believe a disable person can learn to become mobile, speak, write, and so much more when provided the right tools that can enable them in doing so. Assistive technology is opening the door way for the disabled to do what their counterparts of years ago could not even imagined could be done. Proper assistive technology allows disabled individuals to become more interactive with their surrounding world.

Assistive Technology (AT) can be defined as a device or service that can benefit people with disabilities. Any piece of equipment, product system, or any device that can be used to improve, increase, and or maintain a disabled person's functional capabilities is defined as an assistive technology device. Many of the AT devices are hand made by small companies and are manually adapted software programs and other devices to inter act with each other.

The following technological tools benefit people with visual disabilities:

Speech synthesizers (text-to-speech devices): These devices, when plugged into a regular computer, recite text displayed on the computer screen by speaking out in a loud computerized voice. The benefit of such devices is that the user receives immediate feedback of what is being typed. The devices also benefit those unable to communicate orally but who can do so via typing.

Braille printers (embossers): Braille printers or embossers are the ink printer equivalent, which render text into Braille. They utilize embossing pins to type information onto the heavyweight paper employed for this explicit purpose. As they are impact printers, they tend to be noisy. They also tend to utilize more paper than the regular printer for the same amount of data.

Electronic Braille note-takers: Electronic Braille note-takers are the Braille equivalent of personal digital assistants. They are portable devices that allow the user to store and access information either via built-in Braille-friendly technology or through external devices. These devices often have built-in address books, calculators and calendars.

The following technological tools benefit people with hearing disabilities:

Hearing assistive technology systems (HATS) are devices that can help you function better in your day-to-day communication situations. HATS can be used with or without hearing aids or cochlear implants to make hearing easier-and thereby reduce stress and fatigue. Hearing aids + HATS = better listening and better communication!

A technology that is now available is an Assistive Listening System. Hearing aids usually provide poor results in a crowded classroom, with acoustics that are different than one's home environment. An Assistive Listening System is a device that has a microphone for the teacher to speak into that transmits to the HI student. With this device, the teacher's voice is clear and cuts down on background noises.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

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This is a very exciting time for new developments in assistive technology. Not only are existing AT programs regularly updated, but new and previously unseen technology is on-route to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities. With the advent of e-book readers like the Kindle, Sony E-reader, and recently the Nook released by Barnes and Noble, there could be another wave of new methods for people with learning disabilities and other conditions to access e-books and books. While not all of the devices have text-to-speech capability, some of them do, and if it proves useful, other producers of e-book readers will probably follow suit and adopt that utility in the near future.

By current estimates, more than 4,000 assistive technologies have been designed for the disabled and seniors. These devices include everything from wheelchairs to a wide assortment of high-tech tools and many companies today are turning their research and development to assistive technologies.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Most employers and others think disabled people are unable to work or live normally. ABC news last night had a wonderful report on the Walgreens in North Carolina whose employees are half abled bodied and half disabled . We need more employees with a positive attitude like his.

Transportation is always a problem for disabled people if they use something like wheel -trans or handitransit, especially if they don't come on time or you can't book them in less than 48 hours.

Most persons with disabilities live normal lives. They have children and grandchildren. They are able to live independently doing their own cooking, housework etc. Not all disabled people have intellectual disabilities. Those with intellectual impairments often need degrees of help, some are able to live in satellite type of group home, and some live with parents. Some live independently with outside support. Being able to financially manage funding is sometimes a problem for some people with disabilities, but not all. There are able bodied people who don't manage their finances well either.

Voting needs to be easier for disabled people either if using a paper ballot having larger print on it or having Braille on the voting machines. Or allowing people to vote online or mail in ballots like someone overseas. Washrooms need to really be accessible with lower sinks, room enough for wheelchairs to move and people to transfer to and from the chair. More restaurants need to have menus in Braille or on cassette or cd so that the blind or visually impaired consumer can know what's on the menu. Websites need to be designed to accept adaptive screen reading devices.

Movies and TV need to be adapted so that visually impaired and blind people can "see" them descriptively. We think nothing of closed captioning for the deaf, now we need to do more descriptive captioning for the blind and VI.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO FIELDS

Over the years many people with disabilities have contributed enormously to the field of science. Technology has made these things happen. Nowadays devices are used to aid people with almost any kind of disability. One such example is given below.

Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS in 1963 (a few years after his 21st birthday).ALS is a condition that, over time, can easily cripple the body and most of the motor skills. Doctors diagnosed his condition by injecting him with a special radio fluid, and took many x-rays to find out what the problem was.He was happy that he didn't have MS(multiple sclerosis). Back then, there was no medicine for MS. He was able to slightly take care of himself, up until 1974. After that, he needed help with a wheelchair. He also needed private nurses to help him(they came in and out of his house.) Until he caught pneumonia in 1985. After that, he needed 24-hour nursing care. One of his colleagues, David Mason, helped develop a voice synthesizer to help him speak his lectures. It took a while to type in the words, and make a phrase or sentence. Then he entered it into the computer, and it projected the phrase so people could hear his lectures. 15 words a minute was a very good typing pace for someone with his disease, instead of checking letters off of a card, and spelling word for word for each phrase and sentence. In an interview, he says that his disease hasn't held him back very far. He is happy because he has a family who loves him, and gives him support with his crippling disease.

TECHNOLOGY IMPACT ON BRIDGING DISABILITY

Technological advancement in the field of assistive technology has been very helpful for the disables. It has been instrumental in helping those people to what they always wanted to. Below is an example of one such person.

At 42 Mike is paralyzed by ALS, unable to breathe without a ventilator his body is in his words "simply a support system for my brain." Always a traveler, Mike has enjoyed exotic destinations of which many of us only dream. Mike is paralyzed from the neck down, however before completely losing the use of his arms he developed a passion for digital painting. To create digital art, the artist uses traditional painting techniques to create a painting on a computer without photos or scanned images. Now, Mike creates his digital paintings using only his head. He moves his head side to side and up and down to move the computer curser, activating the mouse button via a small switch next to his face by bulging out his cheek. Each painting takes from eight to 200 hours to complete.

COGNITION STRATEGIES FOR OVERCOMING DISABILITY

There are many strategies that disabled people can implement to overcome their disability. There have been lots of examples of disabled people achieving unbelievable things through the help of modern technological advancements. A few people who have done so would include Stephen Hawkings, Mike Bougher, Marlee Matlin, Terence Parkin, Magic Johnson and many more.

Marlee Matlin is a stand-up comedian and an actress. Some of her films include Dead Silence, It's My Party, Hear No Evil, Bridge to Silence, Walker, and Children of A Lesser God. In 1987, she captivated the world by winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in the film Children of a Lesser God. Marlee Matlin became deaf in infancy due to Roseola infantum.

In this public service announcement Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin says: 'There is absolutely no limitation to what I can do as a person with a disability. Obviously I can't hear, but if I am good at something, then I'll do it. If I don't know how to do something, then I'll try it. And if I do it well, I'll continue it. And if I can't, well then I'll find something else to do!'