Technology doesn’t just make lives easier. It makes some lives possible.
If you watched or participated in any videos for the ALS Bucket Challenge in 2014, you probably know Team Gleason. At just 34 years old, Steve Gleason—the former New Orleans Saints defensive back—was diagnosed with ALS, a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and alters physical capabilities. His life expectancy dropped dramatically. He was expected to live for only five more years.
And then he found out his wife was pregnant. He wanted to fight as hard as he could to have time with his son. So, he started a video diary that turned into the 2016 Sundance Film Festival documentary, Gleason.
[You can also watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgkQU32XSFQ]
Gleason, aware of his diagnosis, wanted to document the way he was changing his life to prepare a better life for his son. The documentary ended up beginning a foundation for other ALS patients, offering them purpose and hope. As Gleason adapted to his deteriorating physical condition, there was a ray of hope: technology. Advanced medical and communications technologies have become, in some ways, the best cure for the challenges of ALS:
“Currently, I use a machine that helps me breathe, and I have a feeding tube for nutrition. I communicate by typing with my eyes onto a tablet attached to my wheelchair. I am able to use this same device to drive my wheelchair, pay bills, call/text/email for help, take selfies, play a video for my son, stream music and much more. This technology is life-sustaining, and it allows me to be independent and productive. In a sense, this tablet is a cure for me.” – Steve Gleason
With the infamous Ice Bucket Challenge alone, Team Gleason raised and donated $1.8 million in advanced technology and equipment to aid the lives of those living with ALS. But it costs almost $260,000 per year to live with ALS—and that doesn’t account for the newest communications technologies that make life easier and more productive for those living with the disease.
You can see the dilemma: technology can vastly improve the lives of those living with chronic and fatal diseases. But it comes at a very literal high price. When a fundraiser goes viral, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge did, it’s easy to feel like the problem is solved; but with ever-evolving technology and improvements to the available aid, one fundraiser isn’t enough.
It’s through the help of additional technologies—such as cameras, audio recordings, and photographs—that help make the plights of difficult lives more visible. And when they become visible, we all have the chance to become a little more aware.
Technology truly plays a role in every single part of our lives. From documenting moments to sharing viral content with family and friends, technology plays a vital role not just in how we solve problems and questions, but how we become aware of the causes we want to fight for. Team Gleason not only provides ALS patients with good technologies to improve their lives; they also use technology for good to spread the word of their cause and help everyone see what it’s like to live a different life.
To learn more about Team Gleason and their continued use of technologies to improve the lives of those living with ALS and raise awareness, check out their website: http://www.teamgleason.org/technology/