The Digital Scribbler Podcast: Disability & Technology Introduction
Hello all, my name is Russ Ewell, and this is The Digital Scribbler Podcast. In this episode, I will introduce myself and provide a little background for both myself and what this podcast will cover during season one, I will also discuss reasons for doing this podcast and what I wish will come of it.
As a father of two sons with disabilities, I have both a deep and personal connection to disability advocacy. It has been vital to me not just to advocate to create a better and more inclusive world for my sons, but to do what I can to create that world myself. I have used my own specific skill set–particularly my interest in technology–to create a platform to discuss and contend with accessibility, inclusion, and assistive devices. At times I will also invite special guests to the podcast to provide a varying perspective, a conversation, or a new side to something that I don’t have personal experience with.
The focal point of this series, or at least for episode one, is to evaluate, theorize, and examine how technology is or can be helping people with disabilities overcome human limits and create a more accessible society. I have chosen to focus on this both because of my specialization in technology and my passion for being a thought leader, but additionally because it is so frequently overlooked that modern technology can have a life-changing impact on the quality of life of those with disabilities.
Technology can help those with disabilities access society on a variety of levels. For instance, for people with non-verbal autism, technology can help them communicate in a variety of manners. For those who are blind, they can employ screen readers to access the internet and written material that they would not be able to access independently otherwise.
The technology we have developed and continue to build today is entirely unprecedented, and its accompanying new opportunities and possibilities are endless. These possibilities, of course, are life-changing: they have the potential to provide new levels of independence, clearer and more accurate communication, and more for those with disabilities. It is equally as exciting to imagine how this genre of tech will continue to develop in the future, and how many more lives can continue to be changed by it.
E-Soccer and Accessibility Tech
Technology can also be critical in providing those with disabilities some sense of normalcy in parts of their lives that so often feel inhibitive. For instance, every child should be able to participate in activities like team sports or art camp. What few people realize, however, is how inaccessible these types of activities that we so often take for granted can be for children with disabilities.
It began to trouble and upset me that these fun childhood activities that are so critical in community building were not geared toward children like my sons, and often were inaccessible or difficult for them to participate in. This made me very upset, especially thinking about the strong affinity that I had for sports when I was younger. (maybe insert or ad lib something here about your experience with sports). I figured that if my children were having this problem, many other children with disabilities must be having this problem too. So, I set out to fix it: this is how E-Soccer came about.
E-Soccer is a program that I founded in 2000 which is an all-volunteer inclusive soccer program. It aims to empower special needs children of all abilities to participate in community and athletic involvement.
Some of the goals of this podcast, in addition to speaking about technologies that can provide access to those with disabilities, are to engage in the conversation involving disability, accessibility, and societal accountability. When E-Soccer first began, it was a very small production; it was comprised of a few friends and a handful of kids gathering at a small park to learn the game of soccer. What I didn’t expect was that over the next decade, E-Soccer would grow to serve hundreds of kids in the Bay Area and more with its underlying goal of catering to any and all accessibility need so that every child can play soccer.
There was a huge outpouring of kids who wanted to participate because so many had negative experiences in other programs or hadn’t found any that were advertised as being inclusive and accessible. It was incredible to see the community coming together around an inclusive program, and even more incredible to see how happy my kids were.
However, this does not mean my work, or our work is even close to done. There is still a significant lack of accessible and inclusive spaces in the world that closes doors for people with varying disabilities. The underlying goal of this podcast is to raise awareness of the ways that we, as a society, and you, on the individual level, can work to make the world a more inclusive place.
I will primarily discuss this in relevance to the fantastic modern technology that provides the potential to improve the lives of those with disabilities. I will also be mentioning factors inextricable to this, such as, other modes of achieving social change and ways to support and encourage those folks with disabilities in our lives.
Thank you again for your time and for tuning into Digital Scribbler! Attached in the description is a link to the transcribed PDF so that those who are deaf or hard of hearing can also access this podcast. I look forward to episode two, where I will discuss ways in which technology can open up the education system for children with disabilities!