Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Google Glass and the future of technology

Exciting days are ahead for individuals with mobility impairments, especially those who have little use of their hands or arms.  Google is in its final stages of releasing the most technologically advanced augmented-reality accessory this world has ever seen.  It is called Google Glass; a wearable computer that you look through with your right eye that interacts with you and the world around you.

For starters, it will be voice activated to provide information on what you are looking at, it will photograph or record video on your audible command, it will let you stay connected to your social networks all without touching your phone, and it will (most likely) provide a voice-enabled interface to your cell phone to make/receive calls, video calls, text messages, and emails.

This is a game changer, even with the estimated $1500 price tag.  On top of that, Google is going to open up a development platform for people to create their own uses (apps) for this awesome technology.  One project is already underway to use Glass's (expected) eye tracking capability to accelerate and steer an electric wheelchair.  For those of us who have difficulty driving our wheelchairs with muscles that don't work very well, the future looks bright as technology comes to the rescue again.

I encourage you to check out the project on Indiegogo to watch its development and possibly contribute to its success.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Disabled Advantage

According to a recent New York Times article, some people are under the impression that reasonable accommodations, made for people with disabilities to compete in sports  alongside able-bodied competitors, can actually give that disabled individual an unfair advantage.

I have a physical disability and use an electric wheelchair, yet I compete every week in a USBC-Sanctioned bowling league with my team. About five years ago the USBC decided to look into the issue of accommodations for wheelchair users, and to make a set of rules to guarantee the right of individuals with disabilities to compete in bowling leagues and tournaments.

It used to be illegal to propel a bowling ball using anything but your hand, but now the use of rails (stationary, or mounted directly on wheelchairs) or other mechanical aides are allowed. However, just because there is a rule protecting my right, this doesn't necessarily preclude issues I may have with other bowlers who may feel that I have an advantage propelling my ball with my wheelchair instead of my arm.

What I have found is that just about everyone is initially thrilled and encouraging when I roll up onto the lanes with my team and bowl and participate in the activity. However, let's not forget that this is a competitive sport… and when I got good enough to start influencing the skill of my team, and started excelling, some of those same people started more than a few fights claiming that I had an unfair advantage. I have heard accusations of not having to deal with approach stickiness, grip problems, release inconsistencies, and lots of other complaints. However, from my vantage point, able-bodied bowlers still have the advantage because they don't need to deal with wheelchair motor jerkiness, inability to adjust rotation or ball speed or loft, or a myriad of other difficulties I have had to overcome.

When I rolled a 246, was it harder or easier for me to do so than an able-bodied bowler?