While the first iteration of the Apple Watch has received mixed reviews, one group is excited about the new level of accessibility it could offer — the disability community.
From using public transport to communicating via touch with another person, smartwatches are creating an even playing field for those with different needs.
David Woodbridge, who is blind and the Senior Adaptive Technology Consultant at Vision Australia, said he was pleasantly surprised how simple the Apple Watch is to use, at an event in advance of Thursday's Global Accessibility Awareness Day at the Apple Store in Sydney on Tuesday. He particularly praised the usability and linearity of its interface.
Woodbridge told Mashable Australia he regularly uses apps like TripView — a Sydney transport timetable platform — on his Apple Watch. The watch speaks to him and lets him know when the next train is coming, without having to remove his iPhone from his pocket.
Alex Jones, who has been deaf from birth and works for Ai Media, a captioning company, has also found the device useful because it works with touch. "Deaf people rely on sensitivity, on feeling," Jones said.
For him, the Apple Watch's haptic technology — or what Apple is calling its "Taptic Engine," to deliver taps to your wrist — has been particularly helpful for navigation.
"I use the haptic technology to tell me when I arrive in the city ... with the deaf community, we can feel the pulses whether to go left or right," he added. "If I’m running, it’s good because I can feel the vibrations — I can feel how fast I’m going, whether to slow down or go quicker."
The Apple Watch's capabilities also have a more personal appeal. "You can hold your fingers down onto the face of the watch, and send a heartbeat to a loved one," Jones said. "That’s quite an intimate experience."
When Jones grew in the U.S., there was no technology for deaf people to communicate with. Over time, deaf tele-typing developed, but the units were big and expensive. With programs like SMS and Skype, the community is edging towards equality, he suggested.
Woodbridge agreed. "When we had the iPhone 3 in 2009, I literally felt like I went to heaven," he said. "Not only could I use an iPhone, it was mainstream technology. I paid the same price as everyone else."
Jones' use of video technology to speak with others via sign language on apps like FaceTime on the iPhone — and hopefully soon on the Apple Watch — have also lowered barriers to communication. "That instant communication gives us equal access ... now I feel like we’re on equal footing," Jones said.
And what additions to the Apple Watch would Woodbridge and Jones like to see in the future?
Holograms, according to Jones. "You could do some signing in mid-air, that would be great," he said. "Maybe in five years I want that hologram."
Woodbridge hopes other developers follow Apple's example in designing for broad accessibility: "I want other developers to take on what Apple does as just a matter of course."
"[The Apple Watch is] basically a mainstream device, it raises the bar," he said. "I hope other manufacturers will follow suit ... If Apple can do it, the rest of you can as well."
Friday, May 22, 2015
Mashable. Pictured is Alex Jones, a Deaf American who works for Ai Media, a captioning company, speaking at the Apple Store in Sydney, Australia.
Posted by BA Haller at 8:49 PM