Saturday, November 21, 2015

Apple Watch "Bytes" into Accessibility


My wife bought the Apple Watch for me on my 60th birthday. The fact that I have a high-tech device, literally at my "paralyzed fingertips" to do basic social media activities is a 21st century breakthrough for me!


More than that, the Apple Watch provides me with a sense of security and independence I never had until now - - in more than 34 years of paralysis - - 35 next month.

With the watch on my wrist I no longer have to wear a "lanyard," affixed to my iPhone 6 , and around my neck. I don't worry about the dangling phone getting caught on the edge of my dining room table or falling into my soup dish anymore.

When the phone rings I can use my paralyzed finger to answer it and speak normally. I can send messages, call my family, friends and other business and medical professionals listed in my iPhone.
Apple Watch on my paralyzed closed hand.

I can send or answer a message with the touch of my finger or answer with several preset messages using the very accurate "Siri" or voice technology. I am still not as fast as an "ablebodied" person, but I feel like a "Super Hero" with the Apple Watch. My personal productivity with my new watch has improved 100 percent.


Guess what? I can pay bills without fumbling for my wallet ..... or not fumbling at all!



http://images.apple.com/v/watch/g/images/watch-reimagined/apple_pay_large.jpg
Image: Apple Pay
One of the biggest improvements for me is the ability to use the Apple Watch to pay bills almost unassisted. No longer do I have to fuss or ask someone to remove money or credit cards from my wallet. This was always uncomfortable, both for the person helping me, and me sitting in the wheelchair!  Now I can just hold the watch up to a scanner and Viola!, the bill gets paid via virtual technology.

Apple Image: Watch at pay scanner.

Because technologically progressive countries are moving away from old fashioned "money" to credit cards or virtual payment methods, I look forward to buying everything from hotdogs to hamburgers - -  even taxi cab fares - -  using my Apple Watch.

Practice, practice, practice

I've had the Apple Watch for two months now, and I am getting better at using it and finding features I like to use. I play downloaded music from the watch, check for appointments, search my calendar, or place the watch in silent mode when I'm in a meeting.

The watch also has a menu of accessibility options to help a person better customize the watch for his or her needs - - even a built in screen reader. These include: VoiceOver, Zoom, Extra Large watch face, Font Adjustments, Grayscale, Reduce Motion, Reduce Transparency, and On/Off Labels.

I do wish the Apple Watch had enough memory to eliminate the phone completely - - so I no longer have to carry a phone. I also wish I could use the "face time" feature on the watch. I am sure, however, that in a couple of years, my wishes will, somehow, be possible.

Technology: the "equalizer" for the disabled community

I have always been a big fan of technology. In my work and when asked to make presentations while working for IBM, I always told the audience that "technology is the great equalizer for the disabled."

The example I used was a simple one. When speaking on the phone with a business colleague or client, anywhere in the world, the discussion was on a "level playing field" - -  "intellect-to-intellect."

The non-disabled person at the other end of the line didn't know I was disabled. During our discussion, they not only sought out my opinion, but many times valued it.

There were no fears, or uncomfortable questions about my disability - - they couldn't see me. It's only when they met me in person that they would wonder how I did what I did or reconsidered why they were taking advice or direction from a person who is disabled.

If you can see it in your mind, you can make it happen




Image from web.
As a young teenager, I was an avid reader of comic books as well as a collector. I read stories about DareDevil, a blind super hero, Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and the X-Men, all Marvel Comics characters.  It's interesting to note just how many super heros would be considered disabled under today's Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definitions.

I even read the comic strips, including police detective "Dick Tracy", who had a three-way  TV wrist watch to call his colleagues at the police department. The strip, created by Chester Gould, made its debut on October 4, 1931 in the Detroit Mirror newspaper. I read the strip as a kid in the Daily News, a paper published in New York City.
Web:The Comic cop was visionary.

Now, 30 years later, that wrist watch is real - - it's Apple Watch. 
I know other writers have made that comparison already, but that's a natural connection to make because many in my generation recall that futuristic wrist watch going back eight decades.

I'm sure that more technology is on the horizon. I envision a day when microchips will be routinely implanted in our hands or brains to help us communicate via our nervous system or brain.

Some bio-genetic work has already been done for spinal cord injury patients who have had implants placed in their bodies to help them walk (see T.E.D. Talks). Other work uses implants in the brain to move paralyzed limbs, and even allow a paralyzed person with a spinal cord injury to make brain to brain web connections!

I enthusiastically recommend the Apple Watch or similar technologies to the disabled community. The watch can be purchased for about $300. I know this is a lot of money, but if you can afford it I think it would be worth the investment as a disabled individual.

I know it may be wishful thinking, but perhaps Apple would consider making the watch more affordable for disabled individuals who have motor function issues or other disabilities. Some automakers offer incentives for accessible vans and cars, including Toyota, Ford, GM, Honda and some others.

This new technology goes a long way toward helping the disabled participate more fully in society. The disabled need to further embrace technology and use it as the great equalizer in all facets of their everyday lives.

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