Freshly Squeezed OpEd: Automating The Disabled

May 24, 2022 | OpEd | 0 comments

Those of you who follow this blog regularly (seriously, go outside and catch some air) know that I have health issues. I’ve had Multiple Sclerosis for half of my life. But this past year, my body decided to up the ante and throw in a few more maladies for giggles.

If you have any friends or family members in such a situation, you know the worst thing you can do is to rob them of their independence. I, personally, fly solo. Living in a studio apartment, I have a cleaning service that drops in once every two weeks and an aide who stops over once a week for an hour. And, naturally, I’ll ask a friend to help install my assistive devices in places I can’t reach.

The rest I do as much by myself as I can. Cooking (or takeout the days I feel lazy or fatigued), laundry, food shopping, etc… It may take me a little longer than the average person but, as I said, I must do as much as I can myself.

The primary thing that has given me the ability to do more things over the past several years is the proliferation of home automation. Yes, I could still use keys to unlock my front door, but automated door locks make life that much easier, particularly when hauling groceries.

Something as basic as smart plugs allows me to automate any number of devices. And Apple’s HomeKit (my preference) has enabled me to do a host of things once tedious. As an example, I can set so many lighting scenes, depending on whether I’m watching TV, appearing on a podcast, or simply going to sleep.

There’s a plethora of devices to automate my blinds. And if you do your homework, you can find devices to use the blinds you already own, saving lots of money.

But I try to keep the number of electronic aids to a minimum. After all, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

As I said, I live in a studio apartment. I can only imagine what a boon this is for those who live in a regular house!

I’m aware that the ability features in our smart devices have saved the abled lots of time, so you can imagine the importance it is to us, the disabled.

What I haven’t been able to wrap my head around is there is nearly no marketing of these devices to the disabled. You would think we would be their core demographic.

Apple has free in-store/virtual courses for GarageBand, iMovie, and many of their other apps. I find it very disappointing that they don’t have courses on all the accessibility aspects that the OS and iOS offer to enable us to use their products to the fullest.

In this instance, they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. I find it immensely disingenuous that they would shout from the treetops the ways they have coded accessibility into their OSs. But won’t show the people that they’re actually meant for what is available to them and how to use them. We have been reduced to a marketing ploy.

And Apple is not the only one I’m pointing a finger at. I went to my favorite online Apple tech book store. They carry manuals on some of the most obscure apps. They even have one on something that has nothing to do with technology whatsoever.

A manual for the disabled on how the accessibility features baked into the OS can not only benefit us using our devices, but applying them to our daily existence would be fantastic. But it doesn’t exist.

I had hopes for all the thought and coding that has gone into Apple’s stable would benefit me. Apparently, those of us that could greatly benefit will have to keep waiting.


©2022 Frank Petrie


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