These persons with disabilities (PWDs) tap into digital technologies to make the world more accessible for them.
A conversation with Joseph Chua De Bao used to involve writing on notepads. Born deaf, and unable to adjust to hearing aids or lip-read accurately, Joseph’s only way of communicating with others was in writing — that was until he got his first smartphone, an Apple iPhone in 2007.
“The challenges of communicating with people via pen and paper are lack of patience and time,” writes the freelance software developer in an e-mail interview. “When I noticed the Notes app, it jolted my ideas because it was paperless so I used this technology to communicate with people.”
From smart phones to smart televisions—and now, smart cities—it is amazing how “intelligent” the world has become in recent years. “Smart” is the trendiest pre-fix in the world today, replacing “i” from the turn of the millennium when technology firm Apple revolutionised the market with its iMac and iPhones.
While “i” for Apple meant “internet”, at the heart of today’s technological revolution is all about “intelligence”. This convergence of networked technologies in architecture and industrial design has resulted in “smart buildings” and the “internet of things” (IoT) respectively, two buzzwords that sum up genuine opportunities for the industry in the coming years. But there is also the fear that architects and designers go out of control. Everything can be digitally connected one day, but they don’t all need to be so.