I was asked a question on Twitter yesterday which read “How do you feel about automation in conjunction with #live #SocialMedia #engagement”, which was clearly something I wasn’t going to be able to answer in 140 characters. I know that scattered throughout my blog you will find posts that would in part answer it, but I also know that not one of them would without asking many more questions to get a full answer. I honestly believe that without social media that my life would be totally different, I have written fully many posts that say how important both Twitter and blogging has been for me and how a fortune could be saved by the NHS by give those with chronic illness or simply living alone or just getting on in years, if they gave them all a suitable device to their needs and basic some training. Loneliness and depression numbers would drop dramatically as quite honestly it is a lifeline, but that is only a tiny part of the question. Automation on the surface sounds like a wonderful aid for so many people with disability, I know I have watched on TV the steps being made that will hopefully one day give many people total freedom from wheelchairs and so on, but I watch them also with the feeling that none of them are practical or usable on a daily basis. We are still years away from developing true useable aids for people who have walking issues of any sort, where we are now is quite simply an amazing stepping stone. It doesn’t matter what the aid is, for it to be used and accepted by people like me, they have to easily used without any aid from anyone around us at any time. A true aid allows us to get on with life as though we don’t have a disability, of all the ones that I have found useful, have turned out to be the low tech solutions rather than the high tech ones and that isn’t because I have a problem with technology.
I have two great examples, the first one was when I lost the use of my left hand, my PC had a programme on it that was supposed to mean that I could use it without a keyboard all I had to do was talk. I promise you I really did try, I tried and tried, but it just didn’t understand me, no matter what I did, it wasn’t helped by the fact that PRMS along with a lot of other conditions means that you at times stutter or slur your words. It did start to learn, but I was still quicker typing with one hand, but I decided I was going to try to use it for work in the hope it would learn faster. It didn’t recognise Excel spreadsheets, nor did it work with any of the formats I used for programming any of the Microsoft office products or any Visual Basic environment at all and did nothing no matter what I said, by the way, it was a Microsoft product. I have since tried other products, but the issues remained the same, they just couldn’t deal with the silences while I tried to think of the next word or with stuttering, I gave up on it totally.
PRMS destroys the brain, very much like people with Parkinson’s or Dementia, our brains don’t hold information in the same way and if new items are too confusing by requiring you to use multiple menus in different screens, we get lost. If you add into that controls that have small buttons that are difficult to use with poor dexterity or poor eyesight, lack of concentration and memory issues that leave us staring blankly into space for what to do next, well things like our new smart TV becomes a one-eyed monster sat in the corner of the room goading me. Just 5 years ago I would have had that thing understood to a tee in at most a couple of hours, without trying to understand their small print instruction manual, I’ve never used one. I have always learnt by exploring and often found shortcuts not mentioned anywhere, they were the kind of things that I as a programmer would have created simply for me and for ease of getting around whilst I was still building the program. These days, well my brain goes into a frustrated spin, I can’t deal with the small fiddly control and trying to read what is on screen. My poor dexterity means I land up in places I wasn’t trying to go and when I do get there, one tiny touch can throw you right back to the beginning or I get annoying messages telling me what I already knew, I have done something wrong. Instead of two hours, it has taken my two months to get to grips with the most basic side of it, I know it does a lot more, but I can’t deal with it just now, I can’t deal with it frustrating and how it winds me up, for what, a TV?
It isn’t only gadgets that cause us problems, I wrote a post at the beginning of this year as I had just discovered that parts of the internet are being closed off to us as well, down to nothing more than thoughtless programmers who can’t seem to understand that not all of us are the same. If the world is to stay open to all of us, there is one rule that right now is hard to apply, because of the way all technology is made due to the fact it itself is still being developed, that rule is “Keep it simple”. No one is hurt by finding that a five-year-old can understand how to use the washing machine, but nearly everyone is hurt when they find you have to have a degree in advanced programming. To me, it doesn’t matter what it is, what this wonderful new advance in technology does, if I can’t use it, it’s just an expensive waste of money I don’t have and time I am not willing to lose when every minute of my life is now counting down. Automation has made mine and everyone else’s lives easier, that is clear to everyone, but if it is going to continue to be, it has to accessible to everyone without it being priced out of our diminished pockets and it has to arrive in a form that we can use it with ease.
If I could afford it and if I knew before I had to spend a fortune on it, remember I am housebound, I can’t go anywhere to try something out and companies don’t let you test software for clear reasons of copyright, I would now be looking for a voice-activation package that would work for me with the gadgets I have and the platforms I use. I know already that my arms don’t always want to be typing and I know that I would have far more time to just relax and do other things if I could just sit here and talk to my PC, I also know there will be a time when my vanishing energy will destroy all the pleasure that the web brings. I along with millions of disabled people for the foreseeable future will eventually be both priced out of and mentally barred from being part of the wonderful new world that is slowly being filled with exactly the things we really need, the things that could and should be make our lives better.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 26/02/13 – Changes
One day on and I still don’t remember what I was so desperate to write about yesterday, but last night I went through the identical strange sensations apart from the wriggly thing, that didn’t happen. I have to admit I did find myself wondering if I had some sort of worm, clearly I have watched to……….