HUMAN AID + HUMANOID = GREAT RESULTS

Research is something I rarely do.  When the current topic of  Robots / Humanoids – their intrusion or inclusion in our lives was tossed up I was told this would require me to do some research.  The only humanoid I know is Chitti ( not even 2.0) from the movie Robot (Indian movie).  I was a bit reluctant for you know I am lazy at another level.  But going deep into the description about what we are expected to write about it I found it really interesting, so decided to “Hail Google”.

Well not beating around the bush and coming to the point I was very much interested to see how a robot or humanoid can prove or proving to be helpful for kids with special needs. As I scrolled down different pages available on the internet. It was really interesting to see how the introduction of humanoids is registering their importance in helping kids with special needs. Learning and communication have seen evident levels of improvement. And one thing I noticed is that as I was surfing different pages content of every page was different as in the countries where experiments were done, the robots involved, the figures and so on. Let me share a few examples :

  • International Robotics founder and President Robert Doornick says robots are especially effective at teaching socialization skills to autistic children. When kids interact with robots, he says, they “no longer worry about being criticized or judged by their behaviour or inadequacies, and are free to interact with a robot because it’s just a cool toy.” – This one is from the US.

La Trobe University Professor Rajiv Khosla with Matilda

  • Companion robot Matilda helps Australian teachers create engaging learning environments for special needs students while improving their cognitive skills – an example from Australia. 

 

developmentally disabled nj student getting help with robot
  • Meet “Alphabot,” our very own, interactive, 23-inch-tall humanoid robot who offers many new, exciting possibilities for students at Alpha School. This small, but mighty special education teaching tool is opening doors to the minds of our students.  This is in New Jersey. 
  • Source: Google

So every page I checked into opened up a can of new ideas for me about how can my child get benefitted if at all we introduce a robot to him.  My child is autistic and obviously, socialization and communication are the blocks we are working on to tumble them as effectively as we can.  With school and weekly sessions after schools through things moving in right direction no matter how slowly I am just wondering what could be the impact of having a big talking toy taking charge of effective interaction with my child in the way he likes (don’t think I am a billionaire, I am just toying with the idea)

As far as I know, my child, he does get attracted towards anything mechanical but his interests never sustain for a long time.  For example a few months back we bought him a musical keyboard as I saw him interested in the same. For the first few days, he did play it, experimenting with different keys and kept himself engaged. As the keys no longer seemed to be suspense for him his interest waived off.  On the other hand, he is still interested in the tablet (only watches for about 30-45 minutes in a day) as the visuals and the sounds are more interactive in the sense he sings along, learns along.  There are many things like names of colours, animals & their sounds, numbers, alphabets, rhymes etc that he learned from YouTube apart from what we teach him.  Going by what I saw I believe a fully loaded humanoid with artificial intelligence in the techniques concerning a kid with special needs could be of great help. The peculiar voice (for machine nevertheless it is and I would prefer it that way only) will be the first thing to engage his interest and with a toy interacting with him just the way he likes it communication is something I am expecting to improve.

Another area that slightly lacks my investment is spending time with my son.  Though I try my level best to keep him engaged with me in many ways – cooking or plain talking or activities but I often sense that the amount of time devoted is less than what it takes, thanks to the circle of chores. A humanoid fully functioning for him I can be sure of the time spent interacting.  And with the controls in our hand, his safety is something we can be sure of.  And I also believe a robot can be an immense help in controlling him physically amidst his meltdowns.  And who knows if it could give him a massage which I am unaware of targeting the correct points calming him down effectively.  With my strength obviously on a descending note over the years to come to a helping hand handling him will a big advantage for obvious reasons that the involvement of a machine will surely pause his agitated momentum and he will take notice calmly.

Not just about communication I believe these mechanical replacements to human aid can go a long way in making them independent as in not dependent on any human being for their daily little needs. For instance, my son now daily throws a tantrum to brush his teeth which I feel is a result of his oversensitivity to things, in this case, the feel of brush on his teeth or gums.  It’s a constant fight for me to make him brush his teeth, he really gets upset and tries to use violence (just flapping hands to ward off me) to escape it. Things could be different if it’s his toy friend in place of me. He can hold him more firmly and possibly get it done more smoothly.  Might assist him in things like dressing up, wearing shoes, cooking up his breakfast and so on making him more and more independent.  And that’s all in care for when I am gone.

 

Though an idea but I would say a wonderful one with a possibility of yielding better results when in tune with responsible humans for humanoids at the end of the day need commands/programming, for their processes thoughts are a result of our thought process.  What say? I would love to have such a humongous toy for my son to be with him for life.

AN EYE OPENER FOR THE TRULY BLIND

I closed my eyes and walked around my room. The room I am so familiar with. I bumped into the corner of my bed, then I banged my head on the cupboard and finally, I fell down when my feet got tangled in the phone charging wire.

This was me trying to feel what blind people live like all life long. But trust me, they have better instincts than us, with all five senses intact. They can manoeuvre around a room much better.

I always went with my father to an Andh Aashram. He wanted to donate some money and have a meal with those kids who are denied the beauty of the sight. It was an experience to remember. They ate with such cleanliness, I was ashamed to see that I had spilt some Daal, while their area was spick and span. What amazed me was the songs they played for us later, the flute, the drums, the guitar. They were all so witty and had tremendous courage. They even told me what’s the exact time in seconds rendering me speechless. I felt sad to see the quality of the food was bland and highly unacceptable. The Daal was runny and the rice was coarse. I went to the manager and talked to him about the issue. It was a perfect example of how we, the ones blessed with all senses intact, treat the less fortunate ones. He told me that more than enough money came his way to buy better foods, but what was the need, they can’t see it. I gaped at him open mouthed.

Why do we treat the ones with disability below us? They are not disabled by choice. Why do we shun them instead of embracing them? Don’t they deserve some kindness and humility, a certain degree of respect? We literally make it so difficult for them to function in the world that they often confine themselves to the four walls of their homes. Especially we the “Indians” are such hypocrites that we are literally tight-lipped when such things are asked of us.

We even go to the limit of believing that any person with a certain disability does not deserve a life partner who is normal. The exclamation of oohs and aahs of pity and sympathy we give upon hearing a blind man getting married to a normal girl are proof of our narrow-minded thinking.

Recently I was listening to radio, and a man was singing the song “Dil ki awaaz bhi sun mere fasaane pe na jaa”, his voice had a soulful quality to it, I loved it. The RJ told the singer was a visually impaired person and interviewed him. The man was so lively and full of life, I heard the whole interview. He told his love story, that ended into a love marriage. Smiling the whole time I was ecstatic to know that he married a woman who was normal in all ways despite the objection of her family. At the end of the show, he made one request to his in-laws, “Please accept me and my family as your own, my kids are normal, they have been gifted with sight and they often ask about their maternal grandparents, please don’t devoid them of your love, even if you don’t accept me”. Tears welled up in my eyes upon hearing his message, his wife’s family was so angry at her for marrying a blind man, even though she was happy, with a loving husband who earned well and took care of her. Who had two beautiful kids? Is being different such a big crime ???

Can a blind person still become a medical doctor?

To answer this question, President Maurer invited Dr. Tim Cordes, a practicing physician completing his last year of residency, to appear on the agenda immediately preceding the presentation of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin awards. Dr. Cordes was a recipient of a National Federation of the Blind scholarship in 1995, and in the presentation that follows he speaks not only to the pioneering spirit of Dr. Bolotin, but to our current generation of blind pioneers who explore the new frontier in the twenty-first century. 

Seeing the disability and not the person is the worst thing that you can do to a blind person. People feel ashamed to be the friends of the blind. I had a classmate in school, her sister was blind. She shunned her sister and accused her of being born. She often told us that due to her all her family and friends avoid calling her to parties and outings. She was so offended with her sister being blind that she cursed her parents for imposing rules on her that she has to accompany her sister everywhere she goes and try to get her more social. The eye opener for her came on the day when her dress caught fire on Diwali and her blind sister smelled it before anyone, else did and she immediately emptied a water bucket on my friends head, saving her life.

The ones who are already isolated by birth or by accidents are kept in further isolation by us, the society. The max we offer them is our pity and sympathy. People are more than their conditions or the way they look. yes, blind people rely on touch and sound more. Even without sight, people have body awareness. Feeling fit and strong is a great feeling that makes one feel attractive. Getting compliments or enjoying the feel of a cashmere sweater can make anyone feel attractive. A good perfume can make them feel Sensual. They have all the feelings we do. They are just sightless, not heartless. People with disabilities are just people. They may do things differently but they are capable and individual.

Paridhi Verma, a 21-year-old visually impaired girl from Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, has surpassed everyone’s expectations and landed a job. There were many who thought that such a feat would be impossible for this young girl with her severe visual impairment. However, her recent offer from a micro-finance bank as a customer relationship executive has left everyone pleasantly surprised.

There is no need to “feel bad” for these people. Just treat them like you would treat any other person, scold them if they are rude, fight that blind friend just like friends fight and then make up later. Try to deliver them what they lack, a feeling of normalcy. Just because a person has a disability doesn’t mean doesn’t mean their life can’t be beautiful because they can’t see. It’s just a small part of who they are.

They have the same desires for safety, shelter, food, clothing, financial security, health, love, family and friends. They need compassion too, sympathy too, but at the right time and for the right reason.

What I feel proud of are movies like Kaabil, Koshish, Black and Sparsh, that make us see how able and how smart disabled people are at times. At least our Hindi Cinema is trying to make people more aware of the way we need to act with a disabled person.

I hope that no one has to go through the severe ache of such a disability, but if they do, I pray that they get all the support they can from society and its people.

Open your eyes, don’t be blinded by prejudices!

PS: A photographic documentation is of a fashion show by blind people for blind people.

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