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  • Attitude shifts lead to innovations for people with disabilities

    Author: AAP

The future for people with disability appears bright with tech companies having the financial incentive to spur technological innovation under the NDIS.

The Back To The Future series may have predicted many things - from tablets and video calls to wearable technology.

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But it had written out the future for people with disability.

It's an important point shared by disability advocate Matthew Wright because it demonstrates the shift in attitudes to those with impairments today.

In the 1980s there was an assumption that people with disability should be locked away in large institutions, the chief executive of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations told AAP on Wednesday.


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The assumption in the films back then was that that would continue on.

It didn't - and it's been advances in assistive technologies which have vastly improved the lives of those with a disability.

Mr Wright lists the vast array of devices he uses, from a remote-controlled hearing aid, a pen which amplifies the sound of a room, to a watch which vibrates and alerts him to calls and messages.

"I couldn't function without these devices - they make it possible for me to work and be part of the world," he says.

He believes the national disability insurance scheme will spur further investment in life-changing devices, with a $1 billion incentive to have tech giants jumping to meet the needs of those with disability.

That could include a thought-controlled wheelchair developed by Australian scientists.

"I think we'll see the IBMs and the Microsofts and the Apples really starting to move into the space," Mr Wright says.

The disability advocate sees the future for people under the NDIS as more exciting and inclusive than anything the 1980s film could ever have predicted.

And ironically, he notes star Michael J Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, has now become one of the world's most prominent disability advocates.

"That's something we all grapple with isn't it? Because you can't tell who will experience disability and who won't."


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