« PreviousContinue »
TECHNOLOGY AND THE HANDICAPPED
Problem. Within the last decade, several developments suggest major changes in national policy toward the handicapped and new life-enhancing roles for technology to play in implementing that policy,
Understanding of the origins of handicaps and the scope of the situation is increasing. Improved standards of public health and data collection reveal problems whose scope we were unaware of. According to one estimate, 8 percent of school children are handicapped. Another estimate is that 2.5 percent of the U.S. population are severely disabled. With the steady increase in average lifespan, the impairments of aging will be a growing social concern. Developments in medicine, health, epidemiology, electronics, and materials are creating a new base of knowledge which should have a major effect in enhancing the quality of the lives of the handicapped by preventing, correcting, relieving, or stopping the worsening of their conditions,
There is an extremely limited private sector market base for developing new technologies for the handicapped, and public institutions have been conspicuously unsuccessful in developing an effective, well-structured program for dealing with this constellation of social needs and major human opportunities. Yet this problem area offers a major opportunity for technology to lift a burden from a large sector of our society.
The handicapped are increasingly active in civil and equal rights movements. Recent legislation, notably Public Law 94-142, is creating widesweeping, public obligations for the education of handicapped children. In addition, there are major issues involving transportation, health care delivery, architecture, design, housing-all areas of major governmental action and expenditures. These developments will undoubtedly generate a great demand for preventive, corrective, and rehabilitative social and health care measures. The movement towards bringing the handicapped into the mainstream of public education will ultimately lead to similar "mainstreaming" in occupational sectors. The movement of the handicapped into the work force will also be facilitated by the growth of telecommunications technology and the expansion of information industries.
OTA Role. The proposed project would first determine the present and future scope of the demography of the handicapped, the nature and severity of their limitations, and the scientific and technological potential for preventing, alleviating, or correcting handicapping conditions. The study would then explore and assess the broad impacts on and implications for society of the technologies required to serve the handicapped-including the impacts on the life
Assessments in Progress
Energy, Materials, and Global Security
Alternative Energy Futures
Supply and Demand .......
Lands for Minerals Development .......
Imported Nonfuel Minerals .............
Cost-Effectiveness of Medical Technologies .....
Impacts of Applied Genetics.....
Siting of Coastal Energy Facilities ...
Assessments in Progress (Continued)
The National Laboratories Assessment......
Technological Choices ....
Assessments in Progress
ENERGY, MATERIALS, AND GLOBAL SECURITY
Alternative Energy Futures
During 1978, considerable congressional interest was expressed in a comprehensive study of the Nation's energy future. In this study, OTA is providing a comprehensive picture of supply and demand patterns for energy in the future and their effects on society, the economy, and the environment. OTA is also analyzing various transition paths from our present dependence on dwindling fossil fuels to a system fueled by renewable energy sources. In addition, the study is providing the basis for responsible formulation of public policy by identifying and analyzing the critical issues that must be resolved for such policy. Specifically, OTA is examining various energy futures scenarios and their impacts. These include three possible levels of energy demand, and conditions such as intensive electrification, high use of synthetic fuels, energy self-sufficiency, or high solar use. The study is establishing the requirements needed to meet energy demand for each of the various scenarios in a general way and then determining the energy efficiencies and resources needed to meet those demand structures. Also, the economic, environmental, and social effects, as well as the technical requirements of meeting each demand structure, are being analyzed.
Within the framework of the Alternative Energy Futures study, OTA is assessing the economic as well as the international issues involved in importing LNG (liquefied natural gas). The study is exploring such issues as availability, costs, potential markets for LNG and the consequences of Government actions, including incremental pricing, standards for price and other contractual arrangements with supplying countries, and indirect incentives.
Home Energy Use-Conservation Issues
Before the 1973 oil embargo and the last two unusually severe winters, little attention was paid to future energy shortages. Since then, several Federal programs and regulatory initiatives have been designed to reduce residential energy consumption and increase the efficiency of home energy use. In this assessment, OTA is studying the trends of energy use in residential buildings, the role of energy prices in encouraging conservation, and the opportunities for promoting energy savings in Federal housing programs. The effectiveness of Federal, State, and local conservation programs as well as the status of research and development in energy conservation and opportunities for technological advances are also being examined. In addition, the study will identify impacts of reducing residential energy use.
The Direct Use of Coal
Coal is expected to be the foundation of the Nation's energy future beAssessments in Progress (Continued)
the impacts of the anticipated growth in coal use are, in many respects, uncertain. In this study, OTA is seeking a broad understanding of how coal is used, what role it could play in the future, and what impacts will result. OTA is also examining how coal production can be increased, and the impacts of an increase; and how negative impacts can be reduced and the effects that would have on production. Specifically, the study is examining such issues as: (1) present and future mining, combustion and air pollution control technologies; (2) labor issues such as miner health and safety, and labor-management relations; (3) factors affecting coal production and use (availability, regulations, environmental and transportation restrictions); (4) environmental impacts of combustion (air, water, and land); and (5) present Federal policy towards coal.
Solar Power Satellites
Considerable interest has been shown in the feasibility of obtaining solar energy by using satellites to convert solar radiation to microwaves and beam them to Earth for conversion to electricity. In this assessment, OTA is identifying issues that need clarification and resolution. These issues include the cost of constructing these satellites, their reliability, the affects of microwave beams on life forms and the ionosphere, the institutional arrangements between the utilities and the Government, the potential vulnerability of satellites to hostile actions, and the degree to which solar power satellites would lead to increased economic centralization. In addition, OTA is assisting Congress in oversight of programs already underway. OTA is also comparing solar satellite systems with other inexhaustible energy systems.
Energy From Biological Processes
In the search for renewable and non-polluting sources of energy, many experts see a potential for obtaining increasing amounts of energy from plants and plant wastes (commonly called biomass). In this assessment, OTA is analyzing the potential for and impacts of biomass. The study will examine various conversion processes such as direct combustion, pyrolysis, and distillation, analyze policies that could accelerate commercialization, and examine what research and development is still needed. OTA is also exploring the range of biomass fuels—from crop and wood residues to forests and crops grown specifically for energy. In addition, OTA is looking at end uses of biomass-derived fuels or chemicals. Emphasis will be given to the possible uses of liquids and the technical, economic, and systems trade-offs between possible uses.
Ettects of Nuclear War
At the request of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, OTA has undertaken a study of the effects of nuclear war. The study is examining the effects which nuclear attacks of various sizes might have on the civilian population, economies, and societies of the United States and of the Soviet Union,