Monday, September 29, 2008

Technology & Oscar

When people think of technology I think the first thing they think of is the newest “toy” out in the market, an iPod, a camera phone, or what have you. Usually these things are just distractions that people use to occupy their time. I think it is important to remember that technology is also deconstructing peoples’ preconceived notions, notably regarding the disabled.

I think everyone is familiar with Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter with no legs, who, this Olympics in Beijing almost qualified to compete in the 100m dash but was denied because the IOC deemed his prosthetics to be an unfair technological advantage. Interesting, the artificial limbs he uses are not the most technologically advanced. Oscar notes that he uses a lesser quality prosthetic because he grew up using them and feels most comfortable using them to compete. Even with the prosthetics, Oscar was still a second short for qualifying for the Olympics. Oscar is affectionately dubbed “the fastest man with no legs”.

What I find most intriguing about Oscar’s story is the paradox it poses. Can a man with prosthetic legs really be considered disabled anymore? Can we really look at a man with artificial limbs, someone who essentially stands shoulder to shoulder with the world’s most physically gifted athletes, and attach the title “disabled” to him? No. Technology has afforded him the liberty to, not only, live a normal life but to compete in the highest test of physical ability in the world. 20 years ago, society would see a man with prosthetic limbs and have pity for him, now we look at him with revere… because of technology.

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