This morning I was driving through the rain as I listened to CBC radio. I was relaxed after a hard workout at the gym - always a great state for listening, in my experience. Nora Young hosts SPARK, a weekly interview radio show about technology and human connectedness. Nora is a quiet person with an unquenchable curiosity for understanding how we communicate across space, cultures, age, ability and language. SPARK is always fascinating and this morning was no exception. Today, I learned about a new 'font' or computer typeface that has been invented especially for people with dyslexia. It's registered on 'Creative Commons' which means that it's free to download for anyone who wants to try it out.
Listening to Nora and her guests talk about different ways that people can use technology to communicate reminded me of our own experience with teaching Nicholas to read. My son Nick has low vision and severe cerebral palsy. He's got fantastic hearing and understanding, but reading was always a huge struggle. We tried various early computer programmes in the 1990's, light and shadow boards in the 2000's and continued trying until we finally gave up on reading altogether about eight years ago. Now, Nick gets all the information he needs from the spoken word.
From 2006-2011, our family lived in London where my husband served as Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (that's the same as Ambassador except that Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, so the title is different). We had many official events with esteemed guests. One evening, we were celebrating authors and I had the pleasure of speaking with Margaret Atwood. We were talking about the future of writing and the growing impact of technology on the written word. I was surprised to hear Ms. Atwood reflect, "technology doesn't bother me at all. I love it. After all, the real point is to communicate ideas from my head into yours. Why wouldn't we want to make that as easy and efficient as possible?"
If the written word became obsolete, would that be a terrible thing? I think the answer would be in what the replacement looked like. If we were able to communicate without words, without books or typeface, well, perhaps we could communicate BETTER. I find it clumsy and sometimes frustrating trying to understand Nick. I remember my father being discouraged and sad after losing his speech to a catastrophic stroke. What if we could communicate with our loved ones who find speech or writing difficult because of autism or alzheimer's?
I am interested in technology as a caregiving tool, but I'm also interested in the possibilities of computers as highly evolved communication devices. I hope that one day, we will be able to understand each other's messages in a way that makes not reading well or speaking disabilities of the past.