Technology and the Social Model of Disability

mobile phones

mobile phones

Robert Wemyss
Tech Guru at RUS

Technology holds empowering answers for disabled people


Technology embraces the social model of disability – it does not try to cure or eradicate or cover up disability. Technology is about progress to help all people. It has the power to be truly inclusive.

Technology that empowers and enables people to take more control over their own lives has to be a good thing.

Technology can open up the world of work, shopping, gaming and networking.

There is the technology specifically designed to assist with an access issue and there is technology that is just brilliant and happens to be fantastic for disabled people.


In the last 10 years, focus has shifted from desktop PCs to mobile devices. Today’s smartphones are mini-computers with an increasing range of features for disabled people – they talk, hook up to hearing aids and have other ingenious accessibility functions.

apple devices


Take Siri on your iPhone

Siri lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, make phone calls and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.

Here’s another amazing way to get things done: just use your voice. Instead of typing, tap the microphone icon on the keyboard. Then say what you want to say and iPhone listens. Tap Done, and iPhone converts your words into text. Use dictation to write messages, take notes, search the web and more. Dictation also works with third-party apps, so you can update your Facebook status, tweet, or write and send Instagrams.

Nuance is the company that originally created the backend for SIri.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Professional enterprise speech recognition lets users create documents and control their PC by voice – three times faster than typing – now that has to be a bonus for employers right!

The software means you can create or modify documents, manage email, search the Web or automate business processes. Even dictate into a digital voice recorder or compatible iOS device and Dragon will transcribe the audio files.

There are several Apps that are great for people with visual loss ranging from camera applications that describe the content of an image aurally to other Braille-reading and writing apps. Add to these the numerous accessibility features Apple offers on iOS, most notably VoiceOver, which reads text aloud to sight-impaired users, and its Braille QWERTY keyboard and you can see why I believe technology is a great enabler that starts to remove social barriers.

Of course there are some companies whose websites are inaccessible for people who use different kinds of assistive technology – but that’s not the fault of the technology – it’s the fault of ignorant humans!

We would love to hear how technology helps you work and play – send us your examples so we can share.