Discuss Freedom Machines

Yesterday we watched the video POV: Freedom Machines, a film by Jamie Stobie and Janet Cole. Post your reactions, questions, and discussion as comments on this page. Come to class on Thursday prepared to discuss it. I’ve included pictures of the people in the video to help you remember them.

Pictures of people in the video people from the video
Here are some quotes from the people in the video:

Jackie Brand says “ I really think at the core it starts with low expectations. ” And she recollects being told to have “ realistic expectations.

Bonita Dearmond describes the outcomes presumed for her education “ You could dress yourself and you could keep clothes and you could keep the house and you could manage day-to-day tasks.

Kent Cullers says “ I grew up thinking I could do virtually anything, and of course that’s nonsense. You probably don’t want me as a brain surgeon. But its a lot better than believing there are things that you should never try.

Latoya Nesmith recollects an incident on the bus in which a lady said, “ How do you stand those people … they should be put in an asylum.

Susanna Sweeney-Martini says “ I am really glad that I was born at the time I was, because I probably wouldn’t have gotten the education I had.

Dean Kamen says “ I think almost all change in the human condition is driven by technology.

Sue Sweeny asks, “ Where’s the money and why isn’t it used here (for the technology the people like her daughter need)?” Sue answers her own question saying that it is because politicians believe that people with disabilities won’t vote.

Jackie Brand says “ It’s a terribly frustrating thing to look at something that you know would change your life so enormously and be so powerful for you and to know it’s not to be had because you don’t have the resources and the society has not decided that it’s important enough for you to have.

Floyd Stewart says “ the majority of people with disabilities live at or below the poverty level and they can’t afford most assistive technology.

Floyd observes, “ The system isn’t working because the laws are not backed up with the funding to make independence a reality for individuals with disabilities. It’s a taxpayer issue. Why pay $65,000 to keep a person in an institution when $25,000 could keep a person at home?

Latoya says “ I know I have to be patient.

21 Responses to “Discuss Freedom Machines”

  1. MattK says:

    I cannot believe the patience Susanna Sweeney-Martini had when trying to use her voice recognition software. In one of the opening scenes when she was trying to write a leader to someone and the computer kept getting “Dear” mixed up with “Deer” I think I would have lost my cool. From that scene it makes me feel like her disability has made her a very patient and pleasant person.

  2. dallara says:

    I think that in spite of enormous advances in society to help and include disabled individuals, there is still much more that needs to be done. I do agree that money is part of the issue, but I think that if disabled individuals were given the opportunities they needed to succeed, their input to society could easily outweigh the costs of their own individual needs. Help for disabled individuals is help for society.

  3. StephenH says:

    I agree with dallara. Although, with the technology shown in the video, massive improvements in communication among the disabled have been made, much more needs to be done. I noticed in the video that many of the computers’ operating systems were outdated, so I would assume that this video was made about a decade ago. Even in that short time, I am sure a huge increase in technology has been made so far. Still, technology will always have its shortcomings. We are still far from maintaining communication with them on par with the types of communication we’re used to. A big part of the problem is the fact that not many people are aware of this, or just don’t see it enough for it to impact them. As seen in the video, the disabled people are “cattled” away in special homes designed to help them. These homes, referred to as “prisons” are kept hidden from the outside world. I feel that if we stress the necessity to help these people and shed more light on it, massive headway will be achieved in allowing communication for the disabled.

  4. KristinA says:

    One of the things that hit me the most was how far these people can come despite everything they have been through. Most specifically, Shoshana Brand. She didn’t let her handicaps stand in her way; she started her own business off her own unique idea – to help people with visual impairments watch videos. Ideas such as this help to improve our society. The sad thing is how quickly people with handicaps can be looked over. They see the world in their own unique perspective and, therefore, have so much to offer. Not even giving them a chance to learn with technology is only a handicap to our society.

  5. cpowers9 says:

    I thought it was remarkable how ambitious each individual from the movie was. Everyone instinctively underestimates disabled people but these individuals really showed how much they had to offer and they didn’t allow anything to stand in their way. It was saddening to hear about how schools reject to fund technology for disabled students because as the video showed these students have so much potential and simple technology can make a huge difference.

  6. LoganG says:

    It is truly amazing to see the heart each of the individuals had. All them had what society would say insurmountable disabilities, yet they remained focused in achieving their goals. Perhaps my favorite example of that, was Latoya’s goal of one day working for the United Nations. Sadly, our culture sets very low limitations for people with disabilities similar to Latoya. And it was ironic that the school was so against providing her technology because it was strictly for quote one quote normal people, when she is perhaps more intelligent then those said people, as evidenced by her trying to order Harry Potter books in French and Dutch and her desire to write a Slavic play.

  7. Erin says:

    This video truly left an impact on me by showing me the reality of what it is like to be a person with a disability. It almost makes me feel ashamed of our society and the expectation we place on disabled people to “adapt” to our world that is so centered around people without disabilities. Our society is all about making things more efficient, without taking into account how the change may affect someone with a disability. For example, it is cheaper to build “up”, therefore, we have more high-rise buildings. People in wheelchairs can’t take the stairs, so they must take the elevator which is usually crowded with people are simply too lazy to walk. And what if there were to be a fire in the building? Then the elevators are completely out of the question. Our society is so ignorant of the needs of disabled people. Another example of this comes from the video when Floyd Stewart says, “The system isn’t working because the laws are not backed up with the funding to make independence a reality for individuals with disabilities.” So we can say that we have laws that help disabled people, but are they really doing any good? Besides, laws to do not change people’s opinions. This is obvious by hearing Latoya Nesmith’s recount of an incident on a bus in which a lady said, “How do you stand those people … they should be put in an asylum.” This honestly disgusts me. Discrimination may be a strong word, but I would not consider it a stretch to say that our society as a whole discriminates against people with disabilities. Just like in the 60’s when people were fighting for the equality of blacks and whites, today we need to be fighting for the equality of people both with and without disabilities.

  8. klomax says:

    I was very touched by the interviews in this movie. It was very interesting to hear people with disabilities talk about their situaion. For instance, Susanna just wants so bad to learn. It is such a shame that schools will not purchase the necessary tools for people like her and Latoya to learn. Even people with disabilities have a desire to learn and make something of themselves. Latoya repeated “I just want to learn all I can, so I can get out of high school,” multiple times throughout the movie. I think this shows true determination. Shoshana was another person who really stood out to me. She is opening her own business to help others. Her business will sell describing videos for the blind who cannot see what is happening in a movie. I think the drive of these individuals should prove to everyone that we need to do all we can to help people with disabilities succeed. They deserve a shot, and a cost efficient one at that.

  9. TylerD says:

    Watching this video made me really realize the impact technology can have on people with disabilities. Susanna Sweeney-Martini was specially interesting to learn about as we all saw her resilent attitude and inability to give up on trying to be just like everyone else. The fact that her wheelchair allowed her to go to college and even serve as a soccer referee was great to witness. Latoya was another person that shocked me because of her optimism and persistence. In her situation, I would have quickly grown frustrated and resistant to continuing to learn to use the technology. However, Latoya spoke about her aspirations of writing an opera and working for the United Nations in the future. If Latoya is able to be that optimistic about her future, then we all should have that
    same outlook. Also, I found it really frustrating that the people interviewed had no idea that that type of technology existed. Therefore, I think a bigger effort should be made to help spread awareness about the existence of these opportunities while also trying to lower their costs so that they are available to more people.

  10. Philip Brooks says:

    I enjoyed hearing from Floyd in particular because he was one of the few (if not only?) in the video that at one type was completely “normal”. His perseverance and complete disregard for his shortcomings to push forward and on with his life is truly remarkable. Also the fact that he would go back to the hospital in which he had been “stuck” in after his accident and how he was beginning to work with those there to grow and expand their careers and lives independently. Susanna was also interesting to see how despite her disability is able to engross herself in college life and live (semi)independently. Expanding the availability of assisting-technology is a huge need, but it is also something that needs to be carefully deliberated on so that it can be done the right way (and effectively).

  11. BrookeD says:

    There were many different things in this video that were somewhat surprising to me. Until taking Comp 80, I had always looked at being in a wheelchair as a bad thing. I felt like a wheelchair was limiting and constraining. However now I can appreciate it as a mobility device. A person with a disability is given so many opportunities with the mobility of a wheelchair, and this video opened my eyes to that. I was SHOCKED by the $22,500 price tag though! I would never have guessed a wheelchair would be so expensive. I had also never considered how much more expensive the cost of living is for a person with a disability. That just doesn’t seem fair to me! I was inspired by the dreams of Latoya and Shoshana. Wanting to work for the United Nations or start your own business is a prestigious career goal for a typical teenager, so to see a teenager with a disability have big goals like those is awesome. I was interested in the voice-activated typing program that Susanna uses for her work. Although I think that is a great resource to have, I know that has to get frustrating at times. Overall I think the video shows that there is a need for enabling technology and people with disabilities need to have access to that technology.

  12. KatieC says:

    I had never thought about the fact that people with disabilities usually have a much harder time finding jobs before this video. It completely makes sense that they would, as the majority of people do not think the disabled are as capable as a non-disabled person, but I never took the time to actually think about it. Just as Brooke said in her post, I was also shocked by the costs of such vital technology, like wheelchairs, needed by those with disabilities. Although so much technology is now available to make their lives just a little bit easier, the price tag placed on these technologies makes it inaccessible to the majority of people who really need it; therefore, I feel that a main priority in the enabling technology field should now be finding ways to get the technology to the people who really need it, whether it be through fundraising or price cuts. After this video I almost feel as if I have been completely ignorant to so many of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities, and by the people who care for them.

  13. WilliamL says:

    The people in the movie are extremely confident and optimistic. Without complaining about how they are not treated equally in the society, they have great determination and bright dreams for the future. The disability is more like motivation to them than a burden. For example, Latoya is only a high school student, but she already knows what she wants for her future: be a translator in the United Nation. Look around us, half of the college students here probably don’t know what they want to do, not to mention the high schoolers. Their status as minority pushes them to work harder and surpass others in the society. Also, the movie surprises me how advanced the technology is. Judging from the video quality of the movie, it is probably made at least 5 years ago. At that time, voice command typing system is already developed. When Wii came out, I thought motion gaming was a dream come true; however, there is already non-touching computer when the film is made. It is shocking how helpful these machines are to people with disability. Like the wheelchair that can climb the stairs, it solves the problem of not having a slope and save a lot of time without looking for one. Also, the invention of Sagway seems to have great potential to some disable people; it allows them to travel like, or even better, than people without disability on that flashy device. Despite these advantages, the costs are beyond what ordinary people can afford. Subsidies from government would be necessary to improve the living quality of people of disabilities.

  14. allenak says:

    Some of the statistics in the video were quite shocking. I think society sometimes would rather avoid the problems people with disabilities face than confront the issues head-on. I thought it was incredible that the government pays about $65,000 a year to have someone institutionalized when it might only cost $25,000 to support that person in their home. Not only is that a waste of financial resources, but of human resources. As demonstrated by the people in the video, people with disabilities are still quite capable of contributing to society – a valuable resource lost by institutionalization. I think Floyd’s experience with institutionalization is just one factor that begs for “a level playing field”. It seems like all of the people in the video simply needed a little extra support and aid to achieve more independance.

  15. jackie ivery says:

    I was amazed at how intelligent Latoya is. It really bothers me that her intelligence goes unnoticed because she has a disability. The remark that was made about her on the bus was absolutely inappropriate and goes to show that the world is ignorant to the fact that people with disabilities are still people. I can only imagine what Latoya has to go through on a day-to-day basis. I commend her mother for supporting Latoya in her endeavors.

    Latoya used “intelli-keys” to be able to use the computer normally. This technology is great and, in some sense, tries to create some kind of normalization in her life!

  16. AbelT says:

    I thought it was really cool that Shoshana was able to start a small business in what she felt was important and what would help other people like her. I thought the video made an adamant point that this technology exists that could help everyone who really needs it. The only thing i was wondering about was if the technology was affordable. Sure the technology could be out there but if the technology is so expensive that no one can afford it, it wont help the people who truly need it

  17. hunterC says:

    Of all the people, I was most moved by the man who once was “normal” and then was in an accident and became a paraplegic. I think that he had to overcome obstacles that most of the others didn’t. I think one of the hardest things about his situation wasn’t the physical handicaps but rather knowing that he once could do all the things he can no longer. I think that would be a hard obstacle to face. It also surprised me that he chose to live a life where his job was helping people in his same situation. This is a very noble cause but I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be reminded daily of your struggle. I was impressed with all the people’s optimism and find it interesting that “normal” people often don’t share the same optimism.

  18. AlexandraA says:

    Yeah, like a lot of people before me have said, I was most surprised and impressed by the determination and aspirations of the people in the movie. It was inspiring to see that even with disabilities, these people were able to do more with their lives than many people without. I had never thought about how low expectations society places on people with disabilities, but it completely makes sense. Most people pity people with disabilities, and think about how much extra work their caretakers have to put in, and don’t give any thought to what the people themselves can actually achieve if given the opportunities.

  19. BethanyB says:

    I think that the concept of having “realistic expectations” is part of the problem. If all people are looking for is what others expect, then there will be no chance to go beyond that. The lack of realistic expectations is also one of the key factors in what advances society and technology (At least in my opinion.) I was also amazed (as many have said) at the dreams voiced by those in the video and what they have already managed to accomplish in the face of so much adversity in their lives.

  20. AubronW says:

    Latoya was where I really saw my own personal potential to help. My goals are to make systems and interfaces to allow those people who are looked down upon (despite their intelligence) because of a disability, a better method of interacting and spreading themselves and their thoughts and ideas. Things similar to Susanna’s voice recognition are where there’s a lot of potential and research. But designing more software that gives the voice recognition a manageable method of being constructively used is a field that is far less pursued.

  21. EthanO says:

    The two things that that stuck out to me the most regarding the people featured in “Freedom Machines” were willpower and adaptability. Despite the numerous obstacles each individual faced, from their actual disabilities to the politics involved in assisting with their respective disabilities, they managed to continue to attempt to overcome those obstacles. Kent Cullers’ quote – “I grew up thinking I could do anything..” – personally resonated with me, and it also illustrates the attitude described above. It’s a terrible cycle that these people have to face; they need money to help assist with their disability, but they need that exact assistance to give them the skills to make money.