December 2018: UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Since 1992, 3 December has been the annual observance of the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There are a billion people in the world with disabilities, and the purpose of this day is to promote their rights and well-being, as well as awareness of their experiences, in all spheres of society and development.
Minerals and metals play a crucial role in achieving this goal, both in the building materials required for making public spaces accessible, but also as a crucial part of many tools and accessories that improve the quality of life for countless people with disabilities.
For example, there are millions of people in the world who depend on wheelchairs. These devices are typically made of aluminium and titanium because those metals are strong, lightweight and resistant to corrosion.
People once depended on prosthetics made of iron and wood, but the modern era has brought high-tech to prosthetics development. Lightweight metals such as titanium and aluminium are indeed used in prosthetics themselves, but raw materials play an increasingly vital role in the technology used for creating a prosthetic. CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) are frequently used to design a model of a limb, which is then used to create a mold for producing the prosthetic. The silicon, copper, gold, silver, tin and aluminium required for computer chips make these pieces significantly more comfortable and durable.
These same materials, along with many more metals such as the indium in touch screens, also make smart technology possible. The combination of a smartphone and the Internet of Things can be life-changing for people with disabilities. The ability to control lights, curtains, temperature, door locks and more with just your voice or smart phone can make people more comfortable, more independent and safer.