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Improving the Lives of the Disabled

Freedom Machines takes a new look at disability through the lens of assistive technology. The experiences of a group of unforgettable people let us re-examine ideas about ability and disability grounded in our culture and attitudes.

How can you improve access to assistive technologies for the disabled in your community?

Do a community assessment. What kinds of assistive technologies are readily available? What is needed? How can you make a positive impact?

Partner with a local organization to host a forum for your community, including people with disabilities and their families, to talk about how their lives have been affected by the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and/or the IDEA. Events like this serve to educate the general community about legal issues and the impact they have on communities.

Work with local government or civic agencies to raise funds to help purchase needed technology for someone in your community or to establish an equipment loan program of assistive technology.

Write and implement a plan for your organization to increase access to its programs, services, and technology for people with disabilities. Make assistive technology a regular part of your technology planning.

Sue, in Freedom Machines, says that the money needed for assistive technologies isn't available, because policy makers do not believe that people in need of assistive technologies will vote. See what, if any, work is being done to organize people with disabilities and their allies to vote. See if you can help.

Jackie, in Freedom Machines, talks about how many people just don't know what technologies might be available to them (for instance, Gladys Wang didn't know about TTY). In conjunction with an Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) Center, an Independent Living Center, or other service agency, hold an assistive technologies fair.

The film shows disabilities resulting from a variety of situations, such as injury, accidents, genetics, aging, and disease. There is a significant chance that any of us will become disabled at some point in our lives. If you or a loved one became disabled, would you know where to go for help? Investigate support services available in your community and make sure that "gateway" service providers (medical personnel, social workers, teachers, clergy, etc.) are equipped with appropriate knowledge and up-to-date referrals.

Scan your community's public spaces and public accommodations (restaurants, theaters, community centers, parks, etc.) for obstacles for people with mobility or sensory limitations. Brainstorm things that your group might do to remove those obstacles.

Curb cuts are an example of universal design, that is, a design that recognizes that there is usually more than one way to get things done and that single designs can meet a variety of needs. Look carefully around your community and brainstorm other universal design applications that might improve life for people with different physical abilities. Pick one item from your list and see what you can do to have it implemented.

Contact other agencies or organizations for which you think Freedom Machines is important and encourage them to create or collaborate on community events using the film.