Technology is an Extension of Our Bodies

The Korea Muscular Dystrophy Association (KMDA) provides support services to people with neuromuscular conditions, and improves public understanding of the challenges confronting them. The following is a guest blog by Young Man Jeong, Chairman of KMDA, who shares how the nonprofit is supporting muscular dystrophy sufferers through technology.   

Imagine being bound tightly. A mosquito bites your nose and it tickles. But, there is nothing you can do. This is how we live.

The advocates, trainers and researchers at KMDA—in fact, most of our staff—suffer from the very same neuromuscular conditions that our beneficiaries do. These conditions are rare, obstinate and, most devastatingly, degenerative. We are focused on developing comprehensive services such as education, employment training and providing medication to those living with muscular dystrophy.

Muscular dystrophy affects the tissues and organs of many body systems, but not our minds. We still have work we want to do and hobbies we want to pursue. Look at individuals such as Stephen Hawking and Steve Gleason. You would find that it is technology that has enabled them to remain active in society.

Assistive technology enables us to compose emails or listen to printed text, and one of KMDA’s core missions is to provide access to assistive devices. We consider technology an extension of our bodies, if not a very good substitute. For people suffering from muscular dystrophy, the lack of access to technology is our greatest challenge.

Most of our staff use wheelchairs and are restricted in their ability to travel; conducting face-to-face meetings in the same room is difficult. We set up Office 365 for our staff members, so that they can work effectively from home and coordinate meetings from different parts of the country.

With deep consideration, we bought Surface Pro 3 out of necessity. This is a lightweight device that helped us in establishing a productive “Smart Work” environment. How to tell that we have become too dependent on the Surface device? We joke that the only time we set it down is when we have to eat, sleep or run fast in our wheelchair! 

We are now working with Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) to create a programme integrating Excel, InfoPath and Access functions. We aim to explore further how people with muscular dystrophy can use Surface as a single device for controlling the electric wheelchair and other communication devices in the home environment. 

We see these advances as crucial first steps towards empowering our beneficiaries with the capacity to contribute to society. Through our work and our own successes using technology, we hope to support handicapped professionals in South Korea to be productive and to create a positive impact in their own individual ways.

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