Robert Spruce: Opportunities in the Middle of a Storm

Robert Spruce: Opportunities in the Middle of a Storm

When I was a kid, I used to watch television shows like the Jetsons, Buck Rogers, and Star Trek. These TV shows used innovative communication methods that caught my eye. The characters would go to a monitor and push some buttons, and the individual they wanted to communicate with would appear. As a child from the '80’s, I never thought what I saw on TV would be today’s reality; where individuals would have intense conversations, classes, seminars, or even speak to their doctor through computers. This mode of communication is what we call teleconferencing. 

Teleconferencing is not new. It is proven that large corporations have used this technology since the early '90’s. One of the first video conference methods made available to the general public was Skype, which was not accessible to everyone. The advancement of technology has made programs like Apple’s Facetime, Google Meetings, Facebook, Zoom, MS Teams and other formats much more available. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic for people to become familiar with these methods of communication. However, if they are used correctly, a window of opportunity could open that many people did not realize was there before. 

When this pandemic hit our community, it left people with a feeling of isolation. We were told to retreat into our places of shelter so this virus could run its course, with the expectation that it would eventually go away. However, many of us now understand the importance of social connectivity, and have reconnected through video conferencing.  There have been numerous video conferences that  have served as wellness checks for many advocates. There have also been some opportunity for learning how to be a better advocate!    

It’s very important that the disability community (advocates) consider learning more about the advantages of video conferencing. Some individuals in our community have not received the proper introduction or training of this technology and feel left behind for two reasons:

1) The lack of having access to technology and;

2) The inability to comprehend the process of video conferencing. 

The lack of access could be addressed by accessing organizations  that aid in connecting individuals to technology, such as Michigan Disabilities Rights Council. Using technology has never been more important in linking people with the rest of the world, and the time for a new way of thinking and a broader sense of learning is now.

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