PWDs Join the High-Tech Bandwagon

Manila Bulletin, May 23, 2011 | Go to article overview

PWDs Join the High-Tech Bandwagon


MANILA, Philippines - Who is the best assistant that a person can ever have these days?

They are not actually human beings. Rather, they are all the technology-driven gadgets that commit to humanity a better, easier life.

Assistive technologies also allow persons with disabilities (PWDs) to do things that they find difficult to accomplish. More companies now are producing gadgets that help ease PWDs physical, mental and other disabilities.

Students and Campuses Bulletin gives a rundown of today's most advanced technology that help PWDs accomplish tasks, making their integration in society a lot more seamless.

The exoskeleton

The exoskeleton may seem like it came straight from a science fiction film but the technology is now used to help PWDs. An exoskeleton is a mobile battery-powered robotic frame a person can wear to enhance mobility. This is also called a powered armor, as the same technology is also being developed by the military. The first recorded development of this robotic machine was in the 1960s. Today, exoskeletons are also being developed for the paraplegic. Recently, a student from the University of California at Berkley in the United States was able to march for his graduation with the use of an exoskeleton. The machine was developed by Homayoon Kazerooni, a mechanical engineering professor and his engineering research team at the university. They aim to develop these robotic assistance machines to improve mobility among paraplegics.

Text-to-speech

Text-to-speech technology or speech synthesis is more famously known as the voice of Stephen Hawking. Text inputs through keyboards can be translated to speech. The hardware that the famous physicist uses enables him to communicate. Moreover, the technology's software form allows blind people and those with reading disabilities to listen to written words through a computer. For the visually-impaired, there are now different software programs that allow them to use the computers and mobile phones. They can "read" emails and text messages through these text-to-speech software programs that convert texts to speech. Some of these computer software applications include Kurzweil 3000 and TextHelp Systems. These programs can also help other people with learning disabilities like dyslexia, literacy difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other learning disabilities. In the Philippines, the Resources for the Blind, Inc. offers computer training for the visually-impaired using similar software.

Speech recognition system

This is the opposite of text-to-speech. Speech recognition programs allow the user to convert his/her speech to text. This is especially helpful to people with physical disability like for amputees. Programs such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking automatically converts recorded voice into text. …

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