March 2017 marks the 170th birthday of Scottish Scientist and Inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Bell’s most famous invention of course was the telephone. Many people deride the intrusion caused by modern telephone technology and this was a view shared by its inventor with Bell himself refusing to have a telephone in his study for that very reason. It was one of Bell’s closest friends, however, that saw the potential for the advancement of technology to go hand in hand with the advancement of opportunity for people with disabilities.
Helen Keller was an American Author, Activist and the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was also a magnificent female advocate. And with March also being the month of International Women’s Day, she really demonstrated what it means to #beboldforchange.
Keller campaigned for the rights of people with sensory loss and saw immediately the impact that the telephone could have in bringing people closer together. She went on to campaign for people with visual impairments to have access to Dictaphones to make it easier in the workplace, as well as campaigning for many other companies to make their products more accessible.
Citizen Advocacy aims to bring people closer through relationship building. In the 25 year history of Dunfermline Advocacy we’ve seen how technology can aid that. Young Advocacy Partnerships are now in touch just as regularly via social media as they are face to face. We are able to tell stories of our partnerships more easily too via videos on YouTube or Photographs on Facebook. Communication aids, prosthetics, smart phone technology and many other advances are all playing their part in making the world a little bit more accessible for people with disabilities.
We must ensure, however, that we do not allow technology to replace human contact. For all the advancements in technology it is companionship, friendship, understanding and advocacy that remain among the most powerful tools in reducing discrimination and inequality. On International women’s Day we celebrated some of the fantastic women who give up their time to be part of someone’s life as a Citizen Advocate. Without their support many more people in West Fife would be without an independent voice to fight their corner and without a friend by their side. As the Pioneering Ms Keller once said “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” We hope that technology can continue to play its part in making the world more accessible for people with disabilities, and we hope that people continue to build relationships in order to share in the opportunities that it brings.
Ewan Masson, Development Worker