Freshly Squeezed OpEd: Watch Comes to the Handicapped

Aug 9, 2016 | Reviews | 0 comments

I watched the WWDC 2016 keynote.

I have to be honest. Being of the age where as I have been computing for several decades but computing is not embedded in my DNA, I did find myself simultaneously in states of ecstasy and dizzying bewilderment. Amazing stuff.

But there was one thing that I really wanted to hear – what lied ahead for the watchOS’s Health app. I’ve always been envious of everyone who has had the ability to avail themselves of this important tool.

You see, if you haven’t read my review column regularly (and if you do, you should probably go outside every now and again for fresh air, plus schedule some psychological testing) you already know that I have MS and use a powered wheelchair.

I’m quite fortunate, actually, in that I’m still independent. My MS primarily only keeps me from walking. And I’ve set the dosages of my meds to enable me to perform daily routines like standing transfers, dressing myself, and such.

The top half of my body still functions normally, thankfully. I can feed myself while indulging in a pint or two, type these reviews, and drive a conversion van (with the use of hand controls) to get out and about, among other things.

But because I spend all of my waking hours in a wheelchair, I have to keep a tight rein on things such as my calorie intake. This can be easily handled with apps such as UnderArmour’s free iOS app MyFitnessPal, which allows me to keep track of my nutrition.

In order to keep my upper body physically fit, I have a personal trainer. We have tailored common exercises to fit my specific needs. So, I use free weights, box, do pull-ups, workout with the ropes, and perform aerobics, all with a tailored twist. This helps keep me healthy, my weight in check, and my MS at bay. Currently, we have to make a guess as to how many calories I have burned during a training session. And I’m willing to bet that our estimates aren’t even in the ballpark. But there’s no concrete way of keeping track as to whether or not I’m meeting any set goals.

At the abode, I do stand several times daily and workout with free weights regularly. But there’s no way of keeping track there as to whether or not I have reached any of my goals. For example, with the free weights, the best that I can do is keep track of the daily number of reps and sets I perform. I can but guess how many calories I’ve burned.

The thing that has always frustrated me about the Watch was its limitations in tracking upper body exercises. I know that there are many variables involved and technological hurdles to clear but it was still a deal breaker for me to purchase an Watch all the same. It felt that the Watch wasn’t ‘the watch for the rest of us.’

That’s why some of today’s announcements have me scurrying to scrape together some dosh. I finally get my own set of rings!

First, learning that others such as myself have been waiting for the same thing is refreshing. I was certain that I was not alone. Even more refreshing is that Apple, as always, had been listening. Seeing that handicapped icon on the screen gave me chills.

Second, with the introduction of Swift Playground, this will provide budding developers and handicapped people with the ability to design apps for specific issues that people, such as myself, would like addressed. Recording manual wheelchair usage will benefit a great deal of my friends but that’s just a start. We also need to know how many calories we burn when lifting weights, doing crunches, lateral twists, and such, just as anyone else.

As Accessibility has empowered people who are afflicted with blindness, hearing difficulties, and other similar maladies, that’s how important addressing exercise tracking is for paraplegics and others who are handicapped. CLICHÉ WARNING: This is a game changer.

Again … thank you Apple. You’ve made my day. Or perhaps my life.

©2016 Frank Petrie


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