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4 Things I want people to know about technology in a Covid-19 world

4 Things I want people to know about technology in a Covid-19 world

By Andrew Van Nunen

Edited and supported by Kathryn Mills

My name is Andrew. I'm a 41-year-old 'Autistic man', (or "person who is diagnosed with Autism'', my preferred title), who has been diagnosed late in life, I volunteer at many 'jobs' but don't have a paid job, I am interested in technology, but mainly mechanical and Analogue technology, as MY level of Autism prevents my understanding of complex, and subtle concepts & ideas (like high grade maths, Science & computing).

I also, together with Autism, suffer from a condition called schizencephaly, NOT EVER to be confused with schizophrenia, this condition; schizencephaly, is a hole in one's brain, (a non-forming part, due to malnutrition, and other prenatal causes) which gives balance, communication, dexterity, vision, and other body system disablements, dependent on where the affected part lies. This condition of schizencephaly gave me no balance, poor hand-eye coordination & learning difficulties (I can't look at a presentation, and simultaneously take notes), amongst other things I also find learning new technology hard.

Here are a few things I want people to understand about technology in a covid-19 world for people living with disability.

1.       Funding isn’t easy to understand.

It wasn’t until I had a planning meeting that I understood what funding means.  I had to ask for guidance about what the funding categories for assistive technology means and how to get it on your plans. It’s important to have information that is accessible and in simplified English.  Funding for subscriptions is also expensive and what if you don’t have funding? It can get expensive for people living with disability.

2.       Not everyone is technologically savvy

I got a smartphone because of covid. There is almost a mandatory use of software and technology in the digital age. It was a steep curve that I needed to learn quickly, especially as I am older. There is an assumption that everyone knew how to use technology before covid-19 as there are 5-year-olds that know how to change the time on phones! This isn’t always the case. There are so many things that needed to be learned because of covid like QR Codes and vaccination passports.

3.       Learning to use technology can be a trigger

People may not understand that technology can be triggering for people living with disability – especially when they are learning. For example, things like the flash on a phone can be a sensory trigger. Before learning to take this off, technology can be overwhelming.

4.       People can need training on digital technology.

There needs to be training on assistive technology and when there is none, you can feel berated. It is important that we notify governments and other organisations of our capabilities and how we learn. Some people take longer to learn how to do things. There should be categories (like there are for cyclones) that demonstrate digital literacy of people. This would help identify the need for trainings and how long they should go for.

These are the basic issues we are faced with and what we are capable of – what we need to be at the level to access the covid-19 world. Remember: not everyone can do it easily but we can, with supports and compassion to be able to learn slowly.